Op-EdBill Fletcher Jr.ColumnistsOpinion

Cyber Child Abuse

Bill Fletcher

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist

I was strolling down a very busy Broadway in New York City a couple of weeks ago.  It was a very nice Saturday and it seemed like everyone was out walking and shopping.  In front of me was a woman and her very young child (maybe 3- or 4-years old).  The woman was completely entranced by her cell phone.  She was texting away.  Her daughter was walking a few steps behind her and was meandering around.  My wife and I found this very unsettling.  So, too, did two young men who were approaching us.  They looked at each other and got ready to say something to the young mother.  My wife beat them to the punch, telling the woman that she needed to pay attention to her child because someone could simply grab the child since the mother appeared completely oblivious to the surroundings.  The mother grunted –  there is no other way to describe it – and yelled to her child to stay with her.  As we crossed the street I looked behind me and noticed that, while the daughter was closer to her mother, the mother was back at texting.

This all reminded me of an episode from Star Trek:  The Next Generation, where members of the crew discover this toy that completely captivates them to the point that they can do nothing but play with it.

On another recent day, I saw a mother and her child walking to school with the mother texting away, ignoring the child altogether. Let me be clear.  I use my cell phone regularly. But what I am seeing is not simply the usage of cell phones.  Rather, it is the cell replacing real human contact. It is the cell as a narcotic.  The woman in NYC had completely lost focus.  Her child could have vanished in a nano-second and she would not have noticed.

Yet, there is another aspect to this.  When I was a child and with my parents, my parents would talk with me.  I do not mean that I was the center of every conversation, but we spoke about all sorts of things.  If a parent is focused on that cell –  and  dollars to donuts they are not cutting deals for some hedge fund or handling major issues in their organizations – they cannot pay attention to the questions that the child might be asking or might wish to ask.

Let me put it even more directly in case I have been too subtle:  what is so important in that cell phone that one feels comfortable ignoring a child?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com

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Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

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