BlackBerry Orphans

WSJ reports on “BlackBerry Orphans,” a phenomenon so serious that they’re letting non-subscribers read about it.

As hand-held email devices proliferate, they are having an unexpected impact on family dynamics: Parents and their children are swapping roles. Like a bunch of teenagers, some parents are routinely lying to their kids, sneaking around the house to covertly check their emails and disobeying house rules established to minimize compulsive typing. The refusal of parents to follow a few simple rules is pushing some children to the brink. They are fearful that parents will be distracted by emails while driving, concerned about Mom and Dad’s shortening attention spans and exasperated by their parents’ obsession with their gadgets.

This graphic is a classic:

Blackberry Mommy will you quit emailing and read me a story?

I’m rather dubious that a significant number of parents are sneaking around the house to BlackBerry. I have little doubt, though, that they divert their attention from their children. And trying to type and drive at the same time is just insane.

UPDATE: Some interesting reactions to the story elsewhere:

Patrick Frey and Xlrq may or may not recognize their own behavior in this article.

Joanne Jacobs notes the flip side of this: Virtually free long distance communication makes it easier for parents and kids to connect, especially during their college years, than it was a generation ago.

Wonk focuses on how this phenomenon affects hot teen daughters of Internet celebrities. And then there’s this:

The dude from BlackBerry manufacturers RiM says, “would you rather have your parents 20% not there or 100% not there?” That’s pragmatism.

True that. It’s simultaneously sad and funny but the truth of the matter is that, while constant communication means more people than ever are quite literally “on call” 24/7, that availability also allows people to go home to their families who might otherwise have been stuck at the office waiting for important calls, faxes, and whatnot.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.