When it comes to technology, Michele and Gary may not be early adopters, but they make a spirited effort to keep up. They’re typical: a 50-something couple, one working in metal refining, the other teaching public speaking. They’re facile enough. Still, they don’t completely get it. I should know. I’m their daughter.

Just before spring break, my parents drove from New York to Boston. We spent the weekend exploring the city: touring Quincy Market, visiting the Institute of Contemporary Art, and attending the Boston Symphony (wonderful).

We bonded, but the iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy tablet kept popping up, like a mildly sexist relative with pit stains and a lack of tact, sticking around despite polite invitations to take some carrot cake for the road.

I became increasingly agitated. I poked. I snapped. And eventually I shouted, “Pay attention.” Talk about role reversal.

One night at dinner, when mom and dad were using their phones, I caught the eye of our waitress. She came over to chat. I gestured, exasperated at my parents. “They say millennials are bad,” I laughed.

The waitress had a theory, it’s very simple but very true: Millennial parents work so hard at keeping up with technology that in way too many cases it becomes counterproductive.

Her insight kept me preoccupied. Afterward, as my parents and I walked across the Common, the abstract became concrete.

My parents were transfixed by their phones. They poked and prodded at their touch screens. They Instagrammed and Googled and read the New York Times app. “The adults are worse than the kids,” our waitress said. And she was right.

I hate to say it, but my parents don’t know when to use their phones. Millennials have integrated our digital devices so deeply and seamlessly into our lives that we can’t live without them. We’ve grown up together. Compare this relationship to that of my parents’ generation, flooded with technology — but later later in life, after social habits and practices have gelled. Digital devices bumped up against their existing lives, squeezing in the cracks instead of being woven in over time.

What does adeptness matter without an understanding of when, and for how long, to use technology? As a younger generation has redetermined our cultural landscape, the average attention span has shrunk from 12 seconds to 8.5. The world demands shifting attention. I scan Instagram in line at the grocery store while keeping an eye on the queue, but my mom requires three loud calls of “next customer please” to tear her attention away from her newsfeed. She is hypnotized.

Journalists and “kids-these-days” lamenters alike bemoan the ubiquity of technology on the subway, in the hands of teenagers walking down the street, and even in the bathroom (“HAVE WE NO PRIVACY?!”). But when is a more appropriate time to check Twitter? It’s true: Millennials are never really alone. But maybe it’s better to slowly dissolve one’s alone-time into the Internet waves, than it is to give away a social evening in “One-second-I-just-have-to-take-this” chunks at the dinner table.

Millennials are addicted to technology, but it’s a functional addiction, one that is most obvious when the addict is alone. Others are addicted too, but in intense, electric fits that bring the world to a halt around them, intrusions that make their daughters wonder what to do all alone at a full dinner table. I, a member of “Generation Me,” “Generation Y Bother,” and the “MyPod Generation,” sit and sip ice water, hoping that my parents will eventually get as sick of their phones as I have.