The smartphone has been called “society’s new glue,” the defining technology of our age, but others think it’s driving us apart. Perhaps it's a bit of both. Here’s a recent example:

A child was crying because she was having trouble on a climbing wall in Surrey, British Columbia. Meanwhile, the staff member responsible for her was looking at her phone. This is not something a staff member is supposed to be doing.

The child was not in any danger; she was in a climbing harness connected to an auto-belay device. According to one longtime climber, “The kid wasn’t 'stuck'. There’s no such thing as being 'stuck' on a climbing wall. She was scared to go higher and scared to let go.”

There wouldn’t be much of a story here had the parent done what many parents would have done: Go to the staff member and tell her to get off her phone and talk that child through the problem or get her off the wall.

Instead, what she did was spend almost a minute recording the event, and then put the video up on Facebook with the message “My daughter is crying up there and she is ON HER PHONE TEXTING!!! The mother justifies her actions in the CBC:

It broke my heart not to run and help my daughter right away, she said, but I needed to capture this as evidence. When class first started she was on her phone — didn’t even instruct Sephora to warm up. I did! Didn’t do stretches with Sephora. I did, while she was on her phone!”

The evidence clearly worked. The staff member was duly fired, with the climbing gym responding:

The parent showed us this video yesterday. It's really disturbing and definitely not normal. This particular employee has broke at least 3 internal rules, starting with no phones outside of the employees room. I can assure you that she will not work a single minute more in our location.

So what we have here is a staff member looking at her phone and ignoring her job, a mother using her phone when she should probably be helping her child, and a child — poor little Sephora — crying on the wall. And a mother who already had a thing in for this particular staff member since the start of the class.

The Facebook post has been removed, but on the CBC site there are (at time of this writing) 606 comments, most of which are criticizing the mother and our phone-obsessed culture, like this one:

Not doing your job as an employee due to texting? Not doing your job as a parent due to texting? Driving into oncoming traffic due to texting? Blaming everyone else for being fired? Not putting the phone down to help your child? Killing someone? Welcome to the new ‘normal’ of distraction and entitlement and whining about outcomes. Society is so messed.

Others support the mom, (and attack a generation) suggesting she did the right thing and needed the evidence.

The person filming is the mom. She obviously has seen this behavior before and wanted proof this time. Seriously Millennials!? What is wrong with you?

I have written many posts on MNN and TreeHugger about how I believe that the smartphone is a truly positive force, a culture and perhaps life-changing invention. But I cannot help thinking that having a mom spend a minute on her phone filming someone else staring at her phone while a kid cries on the wall is a bit much.

What do you think? Please take our poll here.

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.

Why is everyone on their phones while this child cries on the climbing wall?
Mom spends almost a minute filming staff member instead of helping the child. What would you do?