Parents, Step Away From Your Smartphones

Photo (cc) by ClearFrost

Mom and Dad, is it time you disconnect from your mobile devices and reconnect with your children?

It’s a loaded question that’s ignited some fiery debate among parents, like the infamous “Dear Mom on the iPhone” post, which says in part:

There will come a point when they stop trying, stop calling your name, stop bothering to interrupt your phone time.

Because they know …

You’ve shown them, all these moments, that the phone is more important than they are. They see you looking at it while waiting to pick up brother from school, during playtime, at the dinner table, at bedtime.

And responses like, “Dear Mom on the iPhone: You’re Doing Fine”:

But you’re not watching … because you’re on your phone — checking Facebook, email or Pinterest. You’re not watching … because you just spent every waking hour before arriving at the park watching everything your child did. Every. Little. Thing.

A recent Washington Post opinion piece by Colorado pediatrician Jane Scott said this generation of parents is likely the most involved and informed in history:

And, yet, in the company of their children, they often act as though they’d rather be someplace else. That’s what they’re saying when they break eye contact to glance at their push notifications or check Facebook when they think their child’s distracted. The parents are present, their attention is not.

Earlier this year, a study by researchers from Boston Medical Center that observed caregivers and their children at a restaurant found that 40 of the 55 caregivers used mobile devices. What’s more, it appeared that their “primary engagement was with the device, rather than the child.” When the children tried to get the adults’ attention, that was usually met with irritation, or worse.

“One female adult kicked a child’s foot under the table; another female caregiver pushed a young boy’s hands away when he was trying to repeatedly lift her face up from looking at a tablet screen,” the report said.

Scott wrote that when parents communicate to their children that they are less important than whatever the parents are doing on their smartphone or iPad, it has an impact. She said she’s seen firsthand the temper tantrums, separation anxiety and disciplinary issues that are a result of parents’ inattention to their children.

Scott ended her thought-provoking post with this:

In an era of constant distraction, we must decide what’s more important: heeding the constant ping of our devices, or telling our children, in word and deed, “I am listening. I am here. And there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

As a parent, I struggle with this issue myself. I use and check my cellphone throughout the day. And in addition to being a stay-at-home mom, I also work from home, so I spend a few hours a day on my laptop. Sure, I try to do the bulk of my writing when the kids are napping or in bed for the night, but that’s not always possible.

It can be challenging to balance my electronic device time with being fully present for my children. I think I do OK balancing the two, but there’s always room for improvement. Sometimes I need a gentle reminder (thank you, Jane Scott) to set down my phone, close my laptop and play with my kiddos.

Parents, how do you make sure your phone doesn’t come between you and your children? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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