Welcome to another Media Moment! This month, Jeannine Lenehan, a graduate student and intern at CMCH, reflects on how her view of technology changed as she and her family began using media in their daily lives. These stories are meant to help create a village square of commiserating and co-celebrating the many ways media intersect with the lives of children. Please comment and even submit your own ‘Moment’ to share with your fellow readers.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
Media Moment: Moving 180° and Traveling 8200 Miles – My “mini” and Me
When my children were born, the cell phone had only been commercially available for a few years and was hardly considered a necessity. By the 90s, email had become popular and the World Wide Web was gaining momentum. In many ways, my children and commercial technology entered their early stages of development simultaneously. As our children grew, my husband and I were mindful of the amount of technology we invited into our home and the pervasive influence it seemed to have on our children. Myspace and Instant Messaging seemed to flood their desktop computer where we had hoped that homework was taking place, and yet the more we struggled to limit technology, the more their curiosity piqued. We felt like dogs chasing our tails. It took years before we realized that the more we made our children part of the decision-making process, the better-equipped they would be to make healthy choices. At the time, I was fearful of a rapidly advancing high-tech world and the potential for the negative effects it would have on the health of our children and our life as a family. However, most of my high-tech fears evolved from how little I understood of what it could do for us.
By 2012, my son was attending an out-of-state college and my daughter was leaving for Chiang Mai, Thailand, after accepting a teaching position there. Thailand’s position on the opposite side of the world separated us by approximately 12 hours and 8,200 miles. I was concerned about the physical and mental distance that Thailand might have on our relationship with our daughter and her relationship with her brother. I grew up in a home with a father who spent much of his time abroad traveling for work, and it created a strain on our family’s interpersonal relationships. I wanted to try and avoid having that happen to us.
Staying connected to my children and sharing their experiences trumped anything else of importance, so my husband surprised me with my first iPad Mini. My iPad was mobile and allowed me to see just as well as hear how they were doing from multiple locations, without the frustration of missed calls or the awkwardness of a large, stationary computer.
For two years, we bridged the divide with our iPads, using FaceTime and Skype. I could see my daughter as her “resident” lizard walked across the outside of her kitchen window while she made her morning coffee and while I cooked dinner. I watched as she snacked on local fruits, like lychee and dragon fruit, while we caught up. Then, in March 2014, I packed my iPad mini and headed to Chiang Mai. I used it to take pictures and create videos as I traveled the streets by foot and tuk tuk (Thai taxis), and then messaged them and shared them online.
In short, I realized as I walked the streets of Chiang Mai that my relationship with technology had made a 180-degree turn. Technology was allowing me opportunities to foster interpersonal connections using tools that were not available a decade ago. And, while it cannot replace our physical and emotional need for more intimate and personal connections, it has allowed me a temporary vehicle to share experiences in collective ways with those who mean so much to me.
~Jeannine M. Lenehan
Jeannine is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center on Media and Child Health and an M.A. Candidate (expected spring 2015) at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University in Medford, MA, she is also the Communications Coordinator for the Department of Political Science at Tufts University in Medford, MA, and the mother of two.
Photo is of Jeannine’s daughter in Chiang Mai, Thailand