Is your cell phone use damaging your child?

Is your cell phone use damaging your child?

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. She was busy texting, seemingly oblivious of her child’s distress. I watched families in restaurants – where young kids were misbehaving trying to get attention, where both parents where happily texting away, also seemingly oblivious to their kids needs in that moment.

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 in that moment? 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 they wrote that several recent research studies show the damage parents can do when they’re physically present, but distracted and less responsive because they’re attending to their smartphones.

Their advice is that parents should turn off their phones 90% of the time when they are with their kids.

Psychology describes one study, published in Developmental Science, where and 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 were using their cell phones. The conclusion is that moms on cell phones have children who are more negative and less resilient.


They also described a large international study that was done among 6000 children who were 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 parents’ 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 the prevalence of this behavior. Many parents pulled out a device immediately on sitting down. 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 more likely to act silly or be noisy. Many parents on cell phones were irritable and impatient, which only led to worse behavior. They observed that cell phone use interferes with healthy parenting: children “learn by watching us how to have a conversation, how to read other people’s facial expressions. And if that’s not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones.”

Yet another researcher interviewed a 1000 children between the ages of 4 four and 18, asking them about their parents’ use of mobile devices. She reported that many of the children described themselves as “sad, mad, angry, and lonely” when their parents were on their devices. 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 interesting 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 warns that using a smartphone when you’re 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, especially if it includes your child.

Implement family rules

  • When you’re with your child, be with them. Put away that phone and other electronic devices.
  • Set down family rules that no electronic devices should be used during meals times.
  • Plan weekly activities with kids that are device/internet free, like board games & outings.
  • Lead by example – a child does as a child sees you do.

Here is a list to help you clean up your digital footprint:


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