Published in 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care was second only to the Bible for overall sales for the subsequent 52 years, until 1998 when sales began to slip, coinciding with the advent of the Internet and, soon after, apps.
Dr. Spock was the first pediatrician to popularize psychoanalysis for children, and to nudge parents to understand their children's needs as a preface for parenting choices. His book urged parents to be flexible and to understand that family dynamics are an ever shifting force, sometimes like quicksand, and other times like a gust of wind under the wings. It is an informative read, although now dated; and anyone over the age 20 has probably been influenced, at least by one less spanking or one more compliment, by the book.
But today that same book would probably be released as an app, one of buttons for your iPhone, as useful for rearing your children as Yelp may be for finding a restaurant when visiting a new town.
Which is not to say that parenting is any easier or more difficult today than in previous decades, or any more or less informed than it was before the Internet brought an entire library of books and parenting advice to your laptop in less time than Junior could wet his diapers; in fact, what it seems like is that technology has just brought more needs and complexities to parenting—but that escalation simultaneously is being matched by an arsenal of technology and tools.
For our annual Modern Moms issue, we are exploring a few different aspects of what technology means to parenting. Oh sure, there is a whole marketplace of online tools to explore. Many apps are geared toward infants and early childhood, like BabyBrain, which smartly journals a newborn's habits, with easy-to-use buttons for "boob," "bottle," "diaper," and "sleep" to track and monitor patterns. A bit further down the developmental sequence, Potty Chart offers a fun and interactive gold star graphic system for encouraging behavior. The available apps are also useful for years and years of charting. While parents once kept track of their children with pencil marks on the door frame, there are now dozens of apps wired to capture much more complete profiles of children's growth. iBearBaby is a cute and simple app, while Total Baby is more comprehensive, monitoring more meta-events, like immunizations and allergies, and tracking the small events like nap times and lengths. Other apps are geared more toward being a parent—and the administrative and financial duties. Bank of Mom sets accounts and rewards for children, and Chore Bank links specific chores to virtual payments. iHomeopathy is an appropriately easy and quick-to-use listing of remedies and First Aid fixes; organized alphabetically, remedies are quickly available, like having your pediatrician in your pocket.
But our Modern Moms issue is about more than apps. In spite of all these tools, questions linger about what role technology has in parenting. On page 11, our esteemed writer Christie Hinrichs provides a firsthand and thoughtful account about bound books versus eBooks for hooking children on reading. Our Culture Editor, Bri Brey, checks in on the Bend-La Pine School District's program to provide iPads to students on page 12, while on page 15, our correspondent Erin Rook travels to the local Waldorf School to discover that in spite of its philosophy of eschewing technology, in fact, the curriculum may teach the very creativity necessary to truly understand and properly use technology.
(And remember, no matter what, a phone call, a hand-written letter or even an in-person visit to your mom is such a very much better way to say, "Happy Mother's Day" than a text message.)