I recently watched parents in shopping malls with their kids. I saw a mom leaning over her shopping trolley in which a child stood crying, trying to get the mom’s attention. Instead, she was texting, seemingly oblivious to her child’s distress. I watched families in restaurants – where young kids were misbehaving and trying to get attention, where both parents were happily texting away, also seemingly oblivious to their kids’ needs.
- My question is now – how has it happened that the person on the other side of your cell phone has become more important than the real-life ones you have around you now?
- What is the effect on children if parents are constantly glued to their phones?
- What is the price we will pay for the neglect of our children?
In an article in Psychology Today.com, they wrote that several recent research studies show the damage parents can do when physically present but distracted and less responsive because they’re attending to their smartphones.
They advise that parents turn off their phones 90% of the time when they are with their kids.
Psychology Today.com describes one study published in Developmental Science, where toddlers from 7 months to 2 years old were assessed for temperament, social engagement, exploration, and post-disruption reunion and recovery. The researchers reported that children expressed more distress and were less likely to explore their environment when their mothers used their cell phones. The conclusion is that moms on cell phones have children who are more harmful and less resilient.
They also described a large international study among 6000 children between 8- to 13-years old, of whom 32% reported feeling “unimportant” when their parents use their cell phones during meals, conversations, or other family times. The children reported competing with technology for their parent’s attention. Over half of the children in the study said their parents spend too much time on their phones.
Parents using cell phones and ignoring their children at fast-food restaurants were also studied to assess this behaviour’s prevalence. Many parents pulled out a device immediately upon sitting down. However, most used it during the meal, often appearing more absorbed in their smartphones than the kids.
These researchers found that kids whose parents were absorbed in their devices were likelier to act silly or be noisy. Many parents on cell phones were irritable and impatient, leading to worse behaviour. They observed that cell phone use interferes with healthy parenting: children “learn by watching us how to have a conversation and read other people’s facial expressions. And if that’s not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones.”
Yet another researcher interviewed 1000 children between the ages of 4, four and 18, asking them about their parents’ use of mobile devices. She reported that many children described themselves as “sad, mad, angry, and lonely” when their parents were on their devices. In addition, several young children reported damaging or hiding their parents’ cell phones.
Your behaviour when you pick up a mobile device when you are with your kids might signal them they don’t matter; they’re not as attractive as what is on your phone, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt your time with them.”
Psychologists agree that kids thrive when they receive consistent, dependable, focused, loving attention.
Psychology Today.com warns that using a smartphone while being with a child is a form of psychological withdrawal and non-responsiveness. They encourage parents to try and stay off their phones when they are with their children 90% of the time. It’s okay to answer an urgent text or make a quick call, mainly if it includes your child.
Implement family rules
- When you’re with your children, be with them. Put away your phone and other electronic devices.
- Establish family rules that no electronic devices should be used during meal times.
- Plan weekly activities with device/internet-free kids, like board games & outings.
- Lead by example – a child does as a child sees you do.
- Would you please not use your phone or be distracted by it while entertaining guests? Always give your full attention to the person that is with you.
Here is a list to help you clean up your digital footprint:
How to Take Control of Your Family’s Screen Time – Baby Chick. https://www.baby-chick.com/how-to-take-control-of-your-familys-screen-time/