Zoom App on Phone Good?

Zoom Zoom is for Motorways….not for cars.

on a mobile phone, a picture of four people meeting asif  the zoom app is is use.
mobile zoom on phone

Dear Ms. Smartphone: This week I installed the Zoom app on my phone, but my wife went ballistic. She says that I should do Zoom meetings from my home office. We carefully set up the home office together this past March and I signed up for a faster Internet speed then. It is a nice place to work from with a good view, but I am tired of taking all of my meetings indoors. So, why should she care if I use the app on the phone instead?   Kirby, San Francisco

Dear Kirby,

First, approach this with emotional intelligence: perhaps your wife has issues because the two of you went to some trouble to set up the office- picking out suitable furniture, getting new lighting or cameras, and locking into a fast plan with your ISP.  Maybe she feels that you are showing less appreciation towards the digital “nest” you built together. Or, she views this change as a signal that you  work from home is ending. These are emotional issues to talk through. If they don’t fit, then move from emotional intelligence to digital intelligence. 

Here is the safety issue, the so-called digital intelligence. Should you interact with the Zoom app in your vehicle, as you drive, it puts you at risk of a collision, and may cause injury to yourself or others.

DistraCtion Highway 101

There are three sources of smartphone distraction in the car: visual distraction- tick one off for Zoom as you search the faces of four other people; manual distraction- tick of another one as you share your screen; and, the third, most important one – mental distraction. Many people think that they can multi-task when they drive, but honestly, driving demands our full-time faculty. Would you trust your surgeon if she browses on the phone while examining you? Would you trust the driver in the next lane who is having an angry phone call with his teen?

Even if you are a passenger, you probably don’t want to hold a Zoom meeting in the car, What happens here is that the phone call requires extra mental concentration, when we only hear one side of it. So, the driver is likely to be unwittingly engaged. 

Out of the Woods

If you are thinking of using Zoom when you walk the dog or go outside- be cognizant of the surroundings. If there are many streets to cross or busy on-coming traffic, it’s not a good idea. If it’s a walk in the woods, it’s probably OK but ask yourself if this is how you want to spend your time out of doors? Is it mindful? 

Should you need to be in this meeting in the first place if you cannot give it your full attention?  And think of the other party to your Zoom call. What are your digital manners and are you demeaning their time and input when your first priority is to walk the dog while conversing?

We all have times when we cannot be at a fixed location to take a call, so I get the usefulness of the Zoom mobile app. Note that Zoom gives you the option to make a dial-in call, without installing the app. So you can listen in and participate , but you won’t see the participants. 

When we have great technology and good connectivity, it’s not necessary to be a Luddite and resist virtual meetings. However, if you do choose to put this particular app on your smartphone, be mindful of where and when you choose to you it. Most of all, make sure you do not multi-task in the car, unless you are sitting there with the engine turned off. Zoom Zoom is for motorways, not for meetings. 

Kids Use Ipad in Car?

Long car trip, many miles to go
with 1 dog and 2 kids..should we bring out the Ipads?

Are we there yet? Displayed in text as a green road sign. There are puffy white clouds in the background.
It’s a sign of a long trip. Are we there yet?

Dear Ms. Smartphone: We have a long cross-country trip ahead of us. We have two kids and one dog.  Our dog can’t get on the airplane, so we decided to take him with us. I think it is OK to let the children have their own Ipad in the car to watch a kid’s show or play games. My wife says I am taking the easy way out and we should not allow them to have the Ipads. What would you do?  The children, by the way, are ages eight and four.  Max, Boston.

Dear Max: You asked me what I would do- seriously, I would fly, but then there’s the dog, and keeping the family Covid safe. It’s good that you and your spouse are having this discussion about digital media before you set out. 

It is hard to peer out of the back-seat window for days on end. But, it’s also hard to drive with noisy, restless kids. Perhaps download a number of family-oriented books-on-tapes before you go. That way, as you drive, you can share the content together. If you give them Ipads, it is one-on-one media. You lose the ability to talk together and bring an adult view to the kid content. 

Let’s Get Bored!

But, importantly, do not underestimate the power of kids getting bored. Each person has to solve it individually and learn that feeling bored is normal. It can also become the gateway to creative thinking and focus. There is so much media to entertain young children today (and keep them quiet) that we overlook the value of downtime. A noted clinical psychiatrist says that boredom, not mental health, is the real issue bubbling up from the pandemic. So, in these times, we need to teach children that it’s OK to be bored. The psychiatrist notes that teens seems to need more novelty and sensation seeking, and their understimulated state opens the door to recreational drugs. So, a few days in the car without the Ipad may set younger kids on a better path. 

IRL Geography

Finally, there’s real educational value in experiencing the vast expanse of this country first-hand. It’s the IRL geography class. You’ll find lots of sites online for making it useful, like this one.  I would personally stop at each state’s Welcome Center so that Fido gets to stretch his legs, and the kids get a souvenir, and pick out free brochures and maps to then study in the car. Maybe your eight year old will want to keep a diary of the trip- either digitally or on paper. The point is to experience it first, record it later, and share it together. Have a good time and drive safe. 

Is Move To Suburb Good for Kids?

An urban Grandma asks when kids move out do they use the Internet less?

This is a book cover from 1997 titled "Better Place to Live" by Philip Langdon. How should suburbia be reimagined?
Suburbia is Good? Philip Langdon, 1997

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Is it good for kids to move to the suburbs? My son and his family plan to move out of the city to a home about 20 miles away. He said his three children are spending too much time on the Internet and also when they move they will each have their own bedroom. I think where they live today is just fine even though they share rooms.  Do you think this move will really help the children when it comes to using the Internet less? As I see it, there are so many fun things to do here in my neighborhood.  Judy, Brookline

Dear Judy: Your son is not alone- there is a narrative that families are doing an exodus from big metro centers these days. Working from home in tight quarters is a chief reason to move out with the closure of favorite restaurants and hangouts. But to answer the question you pose, what are the differences of  urban vs. suburban? The picture at the top is from a 1997 book that argued that the suburbs were stressful, unhealthy places to live. Now the pendulum swings back.

This chart, which comes from an extensive U.S.  time-use study in 2019, shows little difference in what people do in suburbs vs. cities, even with an outdoor activity like playing sports. You asked about media, and that’s not exactly captured, although the categories of watching sports and leisure/relaxing are closely related.

Behind Closed Doors:

In a bigger home with separate bedroom parents will have less ability to see and watch what their kids are doing on the Internet, particularly if the kids used to browse from a shared computer or tablet. Today, bedrooms often do double duty as arcade and game rooms.  But, it’s a balance for families- if Mom or Dad telework, they need to be able to shut the door too.

In the suburbs your son and his family will be spending more time driving, either to see you in Brookline, or for work and school. Kids playing with phones in cars, even as a passenger, is not a good habit. The car is an essential place for conversation, for looking out the window, and managing in-between time. I sometimes wonder if parents who talk a lot on their own phones as they drive, and/or let little kids use their phones in the car imbue a habit that lasts for a lifetime…. when these kids grow up, they become drivers on phones, and drive unsafe.

Inside Closed Cars:

And, speaking of driving, when people move to suburbs with children, kids are generally less independent, unless there are safe sidewalks and bicycles to travel on. Otherwise, these children need to rely on their parents or caregivers to drive them almost everywhere. When children can’t socialize in person or go places,  they might spend more time on their computers or phones, either playing video games or going on social media.

Ultimately, it will be up to your son and his family to set new rules, and to manage how much time the children spend on the Internet. I hope that the move works out well for the family and you will be there helping them manage the changes.