'BlackBerry Orphans' Fight for Parents' Attention

ByABC News via logo
December 12, 2006, 6:48 AM

Dec. 12, 2006 — -- Siblings have long competed against one another for their parents' attention.

Now, they're competing against something else: their parents' BlackBerries.

The BlackBerry has helped parents get away from the office more -- doing work from home and from the soccer game -- but there is a flip side. That BlackBerry is now showing up at the dinner table.

"I say, 'Dad,' over and over a couple times and kind of push him a little bit," said third-grader Bob Ledbetter III of Atlanta.

He and his siblings often can't get their father's attention.

"At times, it's hard to avoid it," said his father, Bob Ledbetter. "It's hard to put it down."

The company that makes the BlackBerry had 6.2 million subscribers in the second quarter of this year, nearly double what it had the same time last year.

Many of those subscribers are parents.

When The Wall Street Journal started talking to some of them, one mother stood out.

"She hides the BlackBerry in the bathroom. So she can sneak away and check her e-mail as many times as she can make her children reasonably believe she has to use the bathroom," Wall Street Journal staff reporter Katherine Rosman told "Good Morning America."

Family therapists say this addiction is no joke. Children are now talking about it in their offices.

One recent study found people who used this kind of technology were more likely to become workaholics whose families could pay the price.

"They'll give away time with family, getting together with friends. They'll give up taking care of themselves," said professor Gayle Porter of Rutgers University School Business.

Andrew and Sean Gannon were quick to show the e-mail device belonging to their mother, Leslie Gannon.

The children said that sometimes they asked her to stop using it for a while, while other times they said nothing.