We are all so “connected” nowadays. Everywhere you look, you see people of all ages engrossed in the online world. Children are asking for cellphones at younger and younger ages, while parents often seem so attached to their devices that they barely pay attention to their children. This brings up the question of how being connected to your own phone and devices might be affecting your child.
A colleague recently told me what she had witnessed during her last dental visit: a father came in with two young children under the age of 6. All three of them were on their own devices (dad had a phone, each child had an iPad).
When the little boy was being examined, he was told he had his first loose tooth. The child was so excited and he kept exclaiming, “Daddy! Daddy, my tooth is loose!”
The father barely acknowledged this milestone, even after several attempts by his son to get his attention. Finally, although he did not even look up from his phone, he muttered, “Uh huh, that’s great.” My colleague’s heart broke when she saw how disappointed the little boy was with his father’s lack of response.
In effect, the father had just told his son that whatever he was looking at on his phone was much more important than his child.
Are Parents Addicted To Their Phones?
Several studies and many experts say the answer is “yes.”
A 2015 study done by the online security company, AVG Technologies, found that more than 50 percent of the children who took part in the research ”felt that their parents checked their devices too often (54 percent); and their biggest grievance, when given a list of possible, bad device habits, was that their parents allowed themselves to be distracted by their device during conversations (36 percent) – something that made a third of the complainants feel unimportant (32 percent).”
How does this affect a child’s development? Children learn things like social cues, how to regulate emotions, and how to have conversations by watching and copying their parents. If a parent is hardly interacting with their child, it stunts the child’s development in these social skills.
In a recent opinion article in USAToday, Theresa H. Rodgers, a speech-language pathologist and the 2020 president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), stated that, “Many of my colleagues across the nation say they are seeing more children entering kindergarten with limited communication and social skills. Older children, they say, are unable to handle formal social interactions, like ordering from waitstaff at a restaurant.”
What Are The Effects Of Cell Phones On Family Relationships?
According to an article on NPR, after watching a mother ignore her smiling, babbling infant in favor of viewing a YouTube video, Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician who specializes in child development, began to wonder about the effects of cell phones on family relationships. This led her to conduct a study (albeit an unscientific one) with the help of two colleagues over one summer. Together, they observed 55 family groups who were eating at fast food restaurants.
What they found was “forty of the 55 parents used a mobile device during the meal” and seemed to focus more on their devices than on their kids.
When children feel ignored, they often act out to get their parent’s attention. In her book about parenting, called The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair talks about how parents who ignore their kids in favor of their devices are telling their children “they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them.”
Further, when Dr. Steiner-Adair did the research for her book, she interviewed 1,000 children, ages 4- to 18-years old. She kept hearing from the kids that they felt “sad, mad, angry, and lonely” when their parents were on their cell phones. This was so upsetting to them that some kids made a point of hiding or damaging their parent’s smartphones.
Help For Parent’s Cellphone Addiction
It can be hard to break your dependence on screen time, even though it’s what is best for your children (and, frankly, yourself). Try these ideas:
- Limit your use of your cell phone and devices to just 10 percent during the time you are with your child. You can dash off a quick text if it is important, but for the most part – put the phone away.
- Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child play times screen free for children and parents.
- Use phone apps to remind you when it’s time to stop using the phone.
- Turn off the majority of your notifications.
- Delete or limit your social media apps.
- Stop using your phone as an alarm clock because it’s too easy to get caught up in checking for updates from friends, scanning texts, and reading emails if you pick up the phone to turn off the alarm.
Contact Us To Learn More
For more information and help with breaking your cellphone addiction, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.