In what seems to be an obvious conclusion, research indicates that parents’ seemingly endless use of their cell phones, computers and tablets is negatively impacting their children’s mental well being. Specifically, a recent international study found that one-third of children feel that their parents spend as much or more time with their mobile devices than they do with them. In addition to the negative effects to children’s psychology, out-of-control usage of mobile devices has caused approximately a 22% increase in preventable accidents with young children and their caretakers.
Simply put, children of all ages feel angry and sad that they have to compete with mobile devices for their parents’ attention. The study found that more than half of children feel their parents check their electronics too often and greater than one-third of children claimed that they feel unimportant when their parents are constantly distracted by their phones.
Studies show that mobile devices are actually addictive to their users. They are constructed by manufacturers to notify people in an instant manner and to trigger a dopamine surge to the brain that results in instant reaction. Rather than waiting until a set period of time to check email, messages and voicemails, people are increasingly feeling the need to check instantly upon notification, a behavior that contradicts parents’ instructions to children to be patient and wait for gratification.
Psychologists also point out that when parents are looking at their screens, they are likely to respond more harshly to their children for interruptions. Oftentimes parents feel like their children, rather than their mobile devices, are the inconvenient distractions.
This sobering reality should hopefully convince some parents to limit their screen time around their children and during family time. Going off the grid for a while can allow parents to do as they say and say as they do. While psychologists say that it is not an issue of parents giving their children undivided attention, it is about setting limits, especially during times in the car, mealtimes, bath time and bedtime. Parents should refrain from checking their phones as soon as they walk in the door after work and should really give their children their full attention when greeting them at the end of the day. One dad was quoted as saying “if you feel like your kids are nagging you when you are checking your Facebook account, then put down Facebook.”