Heidi Stevens: It's tempting to shame parents looking down at their phones. But what if we tried a more gracious approach?

Heidi Stevens, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

I was running through my neighborhood the other morning when I noticed a woman walking toward me, pushing a stroller with a bundled-up little person inside.

She was hunched over, using her forearms to push the stroller so she could free her hands to text on the phone she was holding. As we got closer, another woman jogged past me, then past the woman, and tossed off a comment in her wake: “Put your phone away!”


I understand the impulse. I really do. It feels like phones have taken over our lives and turned us into antisocial, mannerless zombies who communicate in emojis and subsist on the fleeting dopamine rush that comes from Instagram likes. (Too much?)

Phones are an easy object to rail against and a tempting habit to publicly shame — especially when we see a child seemingly playing second fiddle to them.

But here’s the thing.


That mom — assuming she was the child’s mom — could have been texting the pediatrician’s office about her child’s nagging ear infection.

She could have been texting the pharmacy to refill her child’s asthma medication.

She could have been texting her partner, “Took the baby for a walk! Good luck at your interview!”

She could have been texting her boss, “Taking a personal day to hang with my daughter.”


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