How TweetDeck Alerts may have saved My Little Boy’s Life

Baby Saftey and Social Media
Social media can be a distraction and people have always been easily distracted. Social applications are mobile and you carry them around in your pocket, in your purse and they are always with you. You bring them to the birth of your child, to the store, to work meetings, in the car, to dinner, to church, and even to funerals and with them you bring distraction. Thankfully for most people these distractions end in missed buses, a traffic violation, a missed conversation or in the case of parents colored walls or spilled milk. The unlucky ones end in tragedy such as the Colorado women who’s baby drowned in the bathtub while she played games on Facebook or the Florida Mom who tweeted so much that she neglected to see that her child entered their backyard pool and drowned. She even went so far as to be tweeting about the death while rescue attempts were made.

I am not one of those moms. For one, I would never leave my child in a tub alone under any circumstances. In fact there was a time that I forgot a towel for my then 1 year old and instead of leaving him and grabbing one from the next room I scooped him up in my arms, soap bubble covered and drenched, and took him to the towel. I would much rather clean up a wet floor and change my clothes than be calling 911. Secondly, I would never ever tweet about the death of my child. See I am not like them, or am I? Aren’t we all a little bit?

These women certainly did not want their children to die and nor do we. But at some point we have all been distracted by a text or an email or a change in schedule while we are caring for our children. We have heard horror stories about people dying because of texting while driving and parents not remembering to take their babies out of cars in freezing weather or extreme heat because their morning routine was off. In fact, I was so terrified I would do that same thing that I started putting my laptop and purse in the back seat with my baby. I knew that once I got to work I could not go about my day without my computer and would always go back for it. How sad is that, my computer, I would go back for my computer, but I might forget my baby! At least it was fail proof. The point is that no one is perfect but if my child died in my care, because I was distracted by social media or my routine, I would want to be held accountable.

As I sit here writing now I will share with you that my two boys are taking naps. I am fortunate that my little one, Truett, naps twice a day and my oldest, Jack, usually takes a 3 hour nap in the afternoon at the same time that Truett is sleeping. It gives me plenty of time for writing, catching up on emails and tweeting. In addition, I have a nanny two mornings a week to give me time to be social both online and outside of the house. The nanny is something we can’t really afford and is a total luxury, but it is important for me to have my time and great for my children to be comfortable with other adults.

Now, I cannot say that I never read texts or emails in my children’s presence or check my twitter feed, but I have set up rules and taken precautions. For instance, I moved my desk and MacBook into our dining room. Sure it is not the ideal location and takes up half the room but it allows me to see the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and living room in our bungalow all at the same time. So, if I have to be online or on my mobile while they are awake, I am always in the same room as my children. I often hold my youngest on my lap and sing songs to him while tweeting as my 3 year old plays with his blocks or train set at my feet. He is at a stage where he sometimes prefers independent play so having my 1 year old on my lap gives him that free time with his toys. How is that for multi-tasking? I just look at it this way, I took a year off so I could be with them and experience this time of their lives with them, not to be on my computer. So I really try hard to limit my time on my devices while they are awake. Being social and interactive is a part of who I am so I don’t punish myself with guilt as long as I follow my ground rules.

But even with ground rules, baby proofing and having utter love for your children is not always infallible as I unfortunately found out for myself. Yesterday Jack was playing quietly with his Star Wars guys in our dining room, so I decided to take Truett into the kitchen while I washed a mountain of dishes. These rooms are pretty much connected, so I was only feet away from Jack. While I was washing, I kept hearing the TweetDeck chirp going off from my computer in the dining room. Normally I have alerts off or the volume down, but for some reason yesterday it was on loud and clear. It was starting to annoy me, so I shut off the kitchen faucet and decided to go turn it off. I asked Jack if he would like a refill on his milk… answer.

As soon as I turned around from the sink I knew Jack was not in the house. The house was completely silent except for Truett’s babbling and that annoying chirp. My heart skipped seven beats. I took two steps into the dining room and I could see that the front door to our home was wide open. I screamed his name and ran panicked to the front door my mind racing with thoughts.  How did he get out? He doesn’t even know how to open the door, does he? Why didn’t I hear him? My mind had already gone to unthinkable places. Had he been kidnapped? Is he lying in the road hit by a car? Should I call the Police? When I got to the front door I could barely look outside, but there he was standing right in front of our house grinning in just his diaper and a t-shirt with our golden retriever, Hanna, at his side. Apparently he had learned how to open the front door overnight. He has gotten so crafty. He was safe, I was relieved, but only for second. He could have died, been taken, or someone could have called social services. How could I have been such a bad mom? What is my husband going to say? How did I get so lucky? TweetDeck? Really TweetDeck notifications? If it hadn’t been for those damn persistent TweetDeck notifications, it may have been much longer before I noticed he had left. I mean I had a pile of dishes to do in that sink. So thank you annoying notifications, this time you saved a little boy.

Now social media did not really save my baby. All the times I have drilled it into his head that he cannot leave the yard without mommy or that the roads were dangerous and off limits probably had a bigger part in that. I also believe in mommy intuition and I likely sensed something was off when I turned off the faucet. And surely our trusty retriever would have alerted me by barking if  someone approached. The morale to this story really is that anyone even a good mother or father who loves their child can be distracted. Some of us get lucky and others do not.

What I suggest is that you set boundaries for yourself when it comes to social media and put the safety of your children and others first. Social media is now in our DNA and is a powerful tool that can connect us to the world, save lives, and find lost friends. Like DNA social media can have mutations and it can also be deadly and distracting, Whether it is driving while texting or being distracted from parenting, more and more accidents are bound to be blamed on social media and even prosecuted. So set your boundaries, set reminders, put a helmet on those kids, insert a red flag into your routine, and never let social media replace the value of human life.

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One Comment

  1. William Judd
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    A heart-warming but irrelevant story.