I am one of a number of parents who are upset by the recent implementation of Soda Creek Elementary School’s “Hang Up and Hang Out” program. The aim of the program is to get parents to stop taking cell phone calls when they are with their children in order to promote responsible technology use. Students were required to participate in a mandatory assembly, were sent home with contracts for parents, and were told that they would get a button only if their parents signed the contracts. Parents felt that unless they complied, their children would feel excluded.
At the same time, those parents now contend with constant complaints and harassment from their kids whenever they must make a phone call in their presence. I am of the opinion that while it is important for parents to be available to their children as much as possible, there are times when the handling of outside responsibilities is required. I also think that handing a 6-year-old that kind of power in the household relationship is short-sighted and can only lead to conflicts in the home.
While the new program’s aim is to increase quality family time — which no one can argue with — the way that it was implemented was essentially mandatory (else a child is put in the awkward social situation of not getting a button) and was done without prior consultation from parents. Additionally, this parent at least is left with the impression that what was communicated to students was that if parents are talking on the phone then that somehow means that children are less important or being neglected.
Might there be other lessons a child might glean from a parent handling other responsibilities: the value of earning money and its relationship to the health of a household, and the example of a parent being responsible to parties outside the household? Aren’t parents best left to explain to their children that there are times that they must be available to other people, as well? Isn’t that an important realization for children to have — that parents are in fact separate people from them, and that they are loved regardless of whether a parent needs to take a call from a demanding boss or an important client?
The school system’s choice to implement this program without consideration for the practical realities that families face indicates to me a lack of perspective on what appropriate boundaries need to exist between the school system and the students and families it serves. Personally, I’d like to see a little more oversight and have a bit more say in what gets said to my child, especially with regards to what rules exist in my household.