Mom & Dad, put down your phones! (+ 6 tips for doing so)
Be honest, what percentage of the time that you spend with your children are you also scanning your smart phone?
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician specializing in child development, had her curiosity piqued about this very question while living in the tech-savvy Seattle area. She noticed that more and more of the parents she interacted with at her clinic were often so absorbed in their smart phones that they ignored their children.
A few years later, she and two other researchers set out to observe the behavior a bit more systematically. She and her colleagues spent a whole summer observing 55 different groups of parents and young children eating at fast food restaurants.
Though not scientific, their anthropological observations and detailed field notes did capture a concerning trend. Forty of the 55 parents used a mobile device during the meal and many were more absorbed in their device than in the kids.
The children of distracted parents were more likely to act out in a bid to get attention, and used words like, “sad, mad, angry and lonely” to describe how their parents’ usage of mobile devices made them feel. Parents using the devices were also more likely to snap at their children when interrupted by attention-seeking behavior. That’s because the part of your brain that is engaged when you’re texting or sending emails is the ‘to do’ part, where there’s also a sense of urgency to get the task accomplished.
It hurts my heart to think that my boys (and my husband) might feel as though they are not interesting to me or not as important as an incoming message or notification on my phone. But I can see how they would feel that way because it’s exactly how I feel when my husband buries his nose in his phone when we’re riding in the car or having a quiet moment.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to break the habit. About a year ago my husband and I made a pact to dramatically limit the amount of time we spent with our phones (and computer screens) after work so that we could be more present – for each other and the boys. Here are a variety of strategies that have worked well for us.