Mobile Mamas: Parenting in the smartphone age

Young moms are 18% more likely to have a smartphone

I’m at the age where many of my old friends are new parents. They’re a pretty diverse bunch, but one thing they all have in common is how often they use technology as a parenting tool. When we get together as a group, favorite apps and websites are traded like old family recipes; cute pictures of the kids are emailed and shared on Facebook, sometimes while sitting right next to each other. And almost all of this digital connectedness happens on their phones.

At first all this mobile mothering struck me as odd, but I’m now learning that this is fairly standard these days. According to a new report from BabyCenter, which polled over 5,000 American mothers, today’s moms are 18 percent more likely to have a smartphone than other people. In fact, over half of the women polled said they bought their smartphone as a direct result of becoming a mom.

So what is it about modern motherhood that clicks so well with smartphones? According to Lois Lee, MD, MPH, mother of a 4 and 8-year-old, and proud iPhone owner, the mobile mama phenomenon isn’t the result of changes in motherhood, but an indication that technology has finally caught up with the whirlwind pace of moms.

“Life can be pretty fast paced. To keep up, a mother needs to be good at multi-tasking,” says Lee. “Smartphones can be a great reference tool because they provide access to information in a quick and convenient medium. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular with parents.”

Smartphones are becoming standard parenting equipment. flickr/remcovandermeer

Chores like tracking a newborn’s feeding schedule and sleeping patterns can be time consuming so mobile sites and applications that let you do it quickly and easily can be a great asset for time-starved parents. “Logging feeding times with a pen and paper may not be nearly as easy as punching it into your phone,” says Lee. “Having a single tool that helps you chart everything is great, especially since a phone allows you to do it on the go.”

And for parents raising children with specific medical conditions, Lee says the right smartphone app can be an amazing helper. A tool that lets parents accurately track information like medication schedules, proper dosages or food logs for children with conditions like diabetes can be especially beneficial. “If you’ve got a child with diabetes, taking precious time out of your day to calculate something like carb intake can be really time consuming,” she says. “And if you’re doing those calculations in your head, all while taking care of the kids, it’s easy to make a mistake. Having an app that does it for you quickly and accurately could be a huge help for some people.”

According to the BabyCenter report, one-third of the moms surveyed use their smartphone for health and wellness information, including researching potential medical conditions. Having practical, quality pediatric and parenting information at your fingertips is great, but mobile technology is a double-edged sword. For every quality site out there, there are two or three questionable ones—sometimes with information so inaccurate it could be potentially harmful for your children—so choosing trustworthy mobile sites isn’t something parents can do lightly.

“Just like parenting websites, there are good pediatric apps and there are bad ones out there,” says Lee. “When the information is good it leads to more empowered parents, when it’s bad or inaccurate it can lead to problems. I’d suggest only using apps and mobile sites that are endorsed by reputable organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, and always check with your pediatrician before using any of them regularly.”

Lois Lee, MD, MPH

As a mom, Lee says she uses her smartphone to take pictures of the kids to share with friends and family, and has a metronome app that does a great job helping her kids keep time during piano lessons. And though she says she’s slightly embarrassed to admit it, Lee confesses that there is more than one game on her phone that can be a big help in calming her kids when they’re having a tough day.

“I’ve used the games on my phone to distract my kids while they were receiving their immunization shots and it worked great,” she says. “I try to stick to educational ones, but in a pinch having access to any appropriate, hand held game in my purse can be a lifesaver when one of the kids is really upset and needs a quick smile.”