Everybody is becoming a mobile phone addict. That is the alarming trend we are seeing. Guess who are the worst offenders? Parents! This was the result of some research done by the Swedish government’s YouGov agency. They found that 33% of parents have received complaints from their kids that they (the parents!) were spending far too much time on their phones and that they felt somewhat neglected. Wouldn’t you, if you were a young kid trying to tell your mum or dad something and you did not even get a glance. If you are not a mobile phone addict, you can ignore the rest of this post!
Smartphone distracted parenting
In the survey, 20% of parents admitted that they had lost sight of their children while out with them! They got distracted because they had to attend to their phones.
Dr Jenny Radesky works as a paediatrician at the Boston Medical Center. She and her colleagues did some research on parents’ behavior in fast food joints when they were with their kids. A disturbing pattern has emerged. Yes, the study was fairly small one involving 55 family groups at the restaurants so we cannot call this a major study. But what emerged is alarming. Of the 55 family groups, 40 included one parent who was totally absorbed by her/his iPhone. They also were observed hitting their children when they tried to get their parents’ attention.
Similar complaints from kids are mentioned in Catherin Steiner Adair’s book called The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.
Some people say that parents are always a bit distracted by some problem or other but I think that mobile phone addiction is getting out of hand. The solution is to find the right balance and make sure that we can give quality time to kids and that means all phones are switched off. Look at the risks if you do not do this:-
- Language development of kids will be delayed. If nobody is talking to them, then their vocabulary acquisition will be way behind other kids.
- Paediatricians also pointed out that the child’s emotional development will be stunted.
- Family quality time is reduced as there are only 24 hours in a day. Try to save time by availing of meal plans to cut down on all that meal preparation time.
- Children will imitate their parents and become addicted themselves.
7 things you must do now to avoid smartphone distracted parenting
- Make sure that you dedicate your full attention to kids for their quality time. Switch off. If you do not, your kids will feel “sad, mad, angry or lonely”. These four words were what kids used to describe their feelings in Catherin Adair’s book, mentioned above. Kids should be insisting that there is a parent child iPhone contract! If you need help in how to manage children screen time, read our latest blog post here.
- Never text while driving. This sets a terrible example for kids and teens. It means in practice that you are driving blindfolded for a few seconds and you have covered the length of a football field, about 360 feet or 110 meters! Just keep in mind that texting while driving kills more people than drink driving.
- Make sure that family time together at mealtimes, when you do manage to sit down and talk to your children, is strictly screen-free time. All phones are banned and also TV and computers are off while eating and talking.
- Get a TimeLock App (or Screen Time App) for your own phone if you cannot keep to a reasonable limit. It is also great for the kids’ phones too so you know that they have not started to copy you. This will enable the phone to be disabled once the time limit is up. Setting and customizing the daily limit is easy. You can also monitor which sites your kids are visiting and also get an alert when your kids install a new app.
- Set up a routine when you talk to your kids and when they want to ask or tell you something. Make sure that you can give them your full attention (unless it is about a photo on Facebook!). Better to go to a quiet corner away from the computer. This means that your kids will not be one of the 1 in 5 five British kids who complain that their parents never really listen as they are too busy checking their emails or sending messages!
- Make sure you are not sacrificing outings and green time activities or simply reading to children and playing with them. Make sure that their screen time, whether it is a mobile devices, video games, TV, and so on is limited to one to two hours a day (American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation).
- Did you know that one in three toddlers can use a gadget before they can even talk? Look out for signs of digital dependence. If the child is overly agitated or stressed when separated from his device, then you may be sure that something is wrong. It’s an indicator that there is an unhealthy dependence on media and that has to be changed.
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Sony Xperia Z2 front Prepayasyougo via Flickr