Over the last few years I have seen listicles from media outlets and other bloggers with titles such as 10 Ways That Smartphones Have Ruined Our Lives and 10 Way That Smartphones Are Ruining Relationships to name but two. But all that negativity; come on people… lighten up. Smartphones are a great tool and there are so many benefits that they bring to your life.
Especially if you are a parent.
1. Save You From Boredom While Getting Your Baby To Sleep
Whether it’s the first time for the night and the baby needs you to rock it to sleep before you put the baby in its cot, or if the mother is up for the midnight or early hours breastfeed, smartphones take away the boredom of sitting in a dark or semi-lit room which doesn’t have enough light for you to read a book. This was my saving grace, and I know many other parents who do this too.
2. Remind Parents of Their Immunisation Schedule
In April 2013, the New South Wales government released an app for the iPhone and Android devices. While this app caters specifically for parents living in New South Wales, residents from other states of Australia are recommended to check their local health authorities for information on immunisation. No doubt this has been adopted in other countries too. For parents in my home state however, if you want to download this app, simply click here to visit the NSW Health Save the Date to Vaccinate website.
3. A Camera Is Always On Hand
Capture those memories. It’s funny, but in the first twelve months of life our first born son had more photos taken of him than I had in the 24 years I lived with my parents. Film was expensive. Digital photography costs nothing more than the device you take it on, the memory you use and the storage device you keep that on (if you’re not saving stuff to the cloud), and your time to click and then upload to your online storage location, or sharing on social media. So, basically, it costs near to nothing. Especially if you’ve got a free smartphone like I have which came with my mobile service contract.
And it’s not like you have to live life through the lens, but it doesn’t hurt to capture those moments so that when your kids say “we don’t do anything fun” you can throw it back at them and they can see all the fun you’ve actually had together.
4. Capture Those Memories That Can’t Be Photographed
There are a few memories from my childhood that have stuck with me. When I was five I had a saying;
“I don’t has to if I don’t wants to…”
My mother and my grandmother thought it was cute. My mum once told me that I used to say plenty of funny things that she wishes she could have written down and kept in a book. And so, it’s because of that reason (well I’m using that as an excuse) that I take to Facebook or Twitter or both to write down funny things my kids say and do. Not always. But many times I do. Like this pearl of wisdom that our (then) 6-year-old came up with while doing his homework.
5. Prevent Boredom While Kids Are Playing at the Park
Sometimes kids just need to be kids. Sometimes they need to run and play on their own. Sometimes it’s best for them to mingle and play with kids their own age. And sometimes Mummy and Daddy just need a moment to themselves to jump on Facebook and tell the world how great they are parenting today. I jest with that… or do I?
In an article last year on Time Magazine’s website, it mentioned that “a new study from Boston Medical Center reveals that parents who get absorbed by email, games or other apps have more negative interactions with their children…” Many times when I take the kids to the park or the playground at a shopping centre I let them run free and then jump on my phone to read a news story, take my turn at the dozen Words With Friends games I’ve got going, or network socially on social media. But if the kids come running over and want me to push them on the swing, climb up to the top of the castle, or slide down the slippery slide with them, I will put my phone away and join them.
I have seen many mums and dads at play areas do exactly what that article suggests and they tell their kids off if they annoy them while they are playing Angry Birds or are having a conversation with a friend on their phone. Sure I might default to sitting down looking at my little screen, but I keep looking up to see what they are doing, and if one of them yells “Daddy, look at me” you know that I’ll be up on my feet watching them.
6. Share Live Updates With the Working Parent
I’ve mentioned before that my wife works every Saturday and most birthday parties that the boys get invited to generally fall on a Saturday. As a result, I can take a photo of the boys in their costumes (if it’s fancy dress) and a photo of the thing she loves seeing, the fancy birthday cake and tag her in an instant uploaded photo so that she can see what’s going on.
Back in June last year my wife and some friends took the children who are too young for school to a wildlife park and shared the photos with me as I was slogging away at work. Sure it’s not the same as being there, and also, I could wait until later and have a look at photos on a camera without them being uploaded to social media via a smartphone, but it’s a nice thing for the non-working parent to do to include the working parent.
On a few occasions I have been lucky enough to duck away from the office and have an early lunch break to watch our son’s class be the feature class for the school assembly and I have been able to take photos and a video and upload it to the secret Facebook group we have for the parents of the kids in his grade. Whether the parents get to watch it while they are at work or later at home, I know they are appreciative of all of the parents who share the photos and videos so that they don’t miss out on seeing it.
7. Get Reminders Without Needing To Remember To Check
Speaking of Facebook groups, whilst we have a public page for our school (like many schools do) that gives updates on events, meeting, excursions, sporting carnivals and the like, we also have a secret invitation only group for the whole school along with individual ones for the parents of the kids in that grade only. The mother who is the administrator for our eldest son’s group is fantastic. She posts reminders about homework and assignments being due, she reminds us the night before that it’s school banking day or sports day, and then sends another reminder at about 6am on the day. As I have set up my phone to give me notifications from that group, we never miss and event like crazy sock day or crazy hair day, or even crazy, well, I’m sure there’s another crazy day that I can’t remember now but SHE will remind us about before it happens.
I have an Android phone and take full advantage of all the features of the Google branded apps. I know some people might be a little disturbed by things like this, but on the main screen of my phone, Google tells me about events that have been emailed to me even if I haven’t set them up in my calendar. Just this very morning it popped up on my screen to tell me that an announcement about the future of our son’s football team would be made at 3pm, and did I want to save that as a reminder? Of course I pressed “yes” and at 3pm today a notification came through at that time and if I wanted to I could go and check my email to see the result.
Whether you set the reminder yourself in your phone’s calendar, or whether you have a reminder via an app like the vaccination one I mentioned earlier, or Facebook events, or anything like that, if you’re like me and you always have your phone nearby then you remember everything. And you won’t forget to go to your kid’s friend’s birthday party.*
*might be based on a true story
8. Organise Play Dates
Have you ever been out with your kids at a park, a play centre, or maybe at a party and you strike up a conversation with another parent with a child or children the same age and you want to organise a catch up at a later date? In the US there has been a growing market for parents (especially mothers) to have cards made with their details on them so that if this situation arises you can give the other person your details so they can contact you. In Australia, and I expect, in the US as well, there are plenty of people who wouldn’t bother with this or who think that this is more than a little over the top. Even though I have actually handed a mother my networking card for me as a blogger and writer much in the same way these “parenting cards” are designed to be used, if I didn’t have this blog, I wouldn’t be getting a parenting card made.
Sure some might just say “just write it down”, but there would be plenty of people that don’t carry a pen and paper, but almost everyone has a mobile phone on them these days. Sure it doesn’t have to be a smartphone to exchange phones numbers immediately, but, if you’re anything like my wife, as soon as a connection has been made and the decision to catch up for a play date has been agreed to, she’s friended this person on Facebook and sent them a message on Messenger straight away.
9. Get Money From An ATM
Now that our eldest son is riding on his own and the weather is nice enough to, we’ve been going on family bike rides again. Our bike rides normally take us to a cafe where we have some morning tea and a coffee before we ride to a park to have a play and then head back home. When we ride, I have the younger child sitting in front of me and a backpack on my back with the drinks, our phones, hats for when we stop at the park, sunscreen, jackets (if it might turn cold, or it looks like we could be in for rain), my keys and, in 99.999999% of the case, my wallet. Yesterday however, one of those things was missing.
We sat down at a cafe in one of our local shopping centres and perused the menu looking for our morning tea. After we made our selection, I was about to take the kids into the play area as my wife made her way to order from the counter, but as I reached into the backpack to get my wallet out I could see it wasn’t in there. Although my wife’s first reaction was that it must have fallen out, I could picture in my mind my wallet sitting in my home office on my desk where I put it the night before.
As my wife ushered the kids away from the cafe to jump back on the bikes and ride home (you should have seen the kids’ sad faces), it dawned on me that our bank might be one of the ones that have that new feature where you can withdraw cash from one of their ATMs without your bank card, simply by using your bank’s mobile app. After logging on, selecting the withdraw cash button that I have seen a million times before but never really noticed, within about five clicks of the screen, a confirmation security code was sent and then by entering that into my account another code was sent and all I did was walk over to the ATM, type in the code and the amount that I requested came out in the form of a crispy new note.
Now I know that this feature would be great for anyone, not just parents, but, did I mention the kids had sad faces? Five minutes later, sad faces were gone. Crisis averted.
10. Track The Whereabouts of Your Children
I was a bit hesitant to include this one because, just like smartphones themselves, the GPS tracking devices for your children have been slammed by so many as a bad idea. Of course, these shouldn’t take the place of a watchful eye, and you’d never just leave a young child at the park unattended wearing one of those GPS tracking watches thinking that if my child wanders off, at least I can find them. I mean, and again I was hesitant to write this, but if someone abducted your kid while your child had one of these GPS trackers on, guess what they’re going to do? That GPS tracker will be left behind or thrown out the car window in a flash.
Maybe it’s a good idea for older children who are too young for their own phone but who are old enough to go on long walks or bike rides by themselves or with friends. Some of these devices are merely nothing more than a device that the parent can track and see that their child is at their friends house, or at the local shopping centre, or even in school. Some of the devices have a button or two with a pre-programmed phone number with Mum and Dad’s numbers in them so the child can call to be picked up, or can just tell their parent where they are and that they are safe.
If GPS tracking is good for anything when it comes to young children, it’s definitely useful when trying to find your smartphone that your child has hidden while the phone is on silent.
Have I missed anything? Do you use your smartphone to help you with parenting?