The other day I was so engrossed with something happening on a Facebook feed, I didn’t realize my children were completely trashing our playroom. Cry for attention maybe? It’s so easy to get distracted with the never ending access to people and entertainment with smart technology. What started as a “quick check” of Facebook turned into, well, a lot longer.
Used in excess, smart technology can be damaging to our relationships with our children.
I know I’m not the only parent distracted by my phone. However, after reading a study by Boston Medical Center that showed parents are ignoring their children and are more likely to punish their child more severely if they are disrupted by their child while using their device, I am ready to make some changes.
The journal Pediatrics explained the results of the study. According to the article, the implications of the study have a wide scope, including an overall impact on children’s development because of the limited face-to-face interaction between parents and their children when mobile devices are overused.
Quite simply, parents absorbed in their electronic devices ignore their children more, and get crankier and react more negatively when disturbed by their child. And I am one of them.
Part of the study included watching the interaction of parents and children at fast food restaurants during mealtime. Traditionally, meal time is where many parents and children interact most. However, with the rise of the smartphone, that interaction is being rapidly replaced by children watching their parents interact on electronic devices.
During the observation period, 73% of the parents checked their device at least once during the meal, and one third of the adults used them continuously!
Parents reacted negatively when interrupted by their children, to the extreme that one mother even kicked her child under the table when the child tried to get her attention. Yowzers! I admit, I have reacted crankily when I’m immersed, but kicking the child?
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a fellow in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the center and lead author of the study was interviewed for an article that Time Magazine printed. She said to Time, “What stood out was that in a subset of caregivers using the device almost through the entire meal, how negative their interactions could become with the kids. [There were] a lot of instances where there was very little interaction, harsh interaction or negative interaction between the adults and children.”
And it might come as no surprise that another consequence of overuse by parents is bad behavior by the children trying to gain the attention of their parents. The children in this study were observed singing obnoxious lyrics, putting their hands in their parent’s faces, or other actions that provoked their parents to respond negatively. Or, in my case, dumping every toy they own on a pile on the floor!
More importantly, children learn their social skills by observing those around them. If parents are too absorbed in their smartphone to interact with their children on a personal level, where will our children learn their social skills? Something to think about…
So, what should we do? While I don’t want to completely mess up my children, I know it’s unrealistic that I’ll chuck out the phone, especially since the majority of my professional activity occurs, you guessed it, online.
4 Tips for Breaking Away from Electronics
1 – Set some boundaries in the home.
For me, I’ve decided to turn off the computer and try my best to ignore the phone between the hours of 3 and 8. That’s now family time. Some days, depending on my work load and schedule, that is easier than others. But I am learning to stick to it most days.
2 – Keep the electronic devices away from the dinner table
I consider this a no-brainer. We sit down each night for dinner as a family. That’s our chance to talk to each other, find out what is going on, and build our relationships. This is one thing I am happy to say I have always done. For some, this may be a big change. But I think it will be worth it!
3 – Don’t use the phone during the bedtime routine
I’ve actually started to keep track of how easily my children go to bed when we have an interactive, slow routine of stories and tucking in, versus the nights that I’m in a hurry and need to get back to work. Option A goes much more smoothly.
4 – Wireless Weekends
If you’re REALLY up for a challenge, go for the big one. A wireless day or weekend. This, when possible, allows you to devote your attention to your relationship with your children rather than your mobile device.
I took two weeks almost completely off of electronics over the Christmas holidays. It was the most wonderful gift I ever gave myself and my family.