The question of how far people are prepared to impute responsibility for their childcare was again thrown into relief with a story in the Guardian of how a new father developed an app to help his baby sleep throughout the night.
The SleepHero app has recently launched on the App Store. Its creator Rob Tong came up with the idea having spent many sleepless nights trying to get his new born to sleep. While it is one of many existing apps that use white noise audio, SleepHero has enhanced capabilities including a sound recorder that allows parents to record their own lullabies and a monitor that plays listens for sounds of the child stirring in order that the audio automatically plays.
Acknowledging that it is not a substitute for caring and loving parenting, Tong says that he hopes that some of the app’s features will help children and parents to sleep through the night – and at £2.99 a pop it might end up being a nice little earner for him too.
Of course anything that helps new parents cope with the birth of a new child is to be welcomed and Tong’s contribution seems relatively benign – credit is due to him for coming up with such an innovative solution for a problem that stretches back to time immemorial. But seen in the context of a wider trend of responsibility being passed from the individual to technology then you could argue there could be more serious concerns.
Indeed some parenting experts have warned that digital distractions are harming relationships, stopping the young from developing communications skills and teaching children from a very early age that spending all your time with a digital device is a normal and healthy activity.
This has prompted the parenting website MyFamilyClub (without irony) to launch a campaign asking individuals and families to put down and switch off their smartphones, tablets and computers for a 24-hour period #nationalunpluggingday.
The second National Unplugging Day takes tomorrow, Sunday 28 June and while recognising that value and importance of technology it also encourages them to be mindful of their digital usage and the effects this could be having on their families.
As the father of a 16-month-old girl who is obsessed with mobile phones and almost cognoscente in their capabilities – she even taps the television screen, expecting it to react in the same way as a digital screen – I expect the balance between parents letting them use devices for a quieter life and giving them real world experiences is one that will continue to shift.