21st Century Parent: Are you on Your Phone Too Much?

If we are being honest, we are on the phone a LOT. How is that affecting our parenting?

Example 1. A chiropractor was talking about how over the last 10 years, he’d seen chronic injuries change. The people who were coming into his office were overwhelmingly dealing with upper back and neck issues. “Cell phones,” he said, “Everyone is looking down at their devices all day.”

Example 2. With the recent Pokémon mania, there were whole blocks of people standing around staring at their phones. The thing is, it’s starting to look normal. Don’t believe us? Go into a café or doctor’s office and do a quick scan. Chances are, most of those folks are on a device.

Example 3. When you go to a playground, the parents are texting or talking on the phone. Unless they arrived together, the parents talk to each other far less. Kids often resort to “acting out” behaviors just to get their parents’ attention.

Example 4. A very popular restaurant was seeing a dip in business. They were getting the same amount of people through the door, so why was business flagging? The owners decided to conduct a study and realized that patrons were taking up to 20 minutes longer to finish dining. Why? They were taking group selfies and photos of the food.

These are all real life examples of places in our society where the cell phone has taken over. A study at Pew Research Center in 2015 estimates that 68% of the adult population has a smart phone – compare that with 2011: 35%1.

When a new technology comes along, we are often so seduced by the capabilities that we don’t stop to ask ourselves what the consequences will be.

When in fact, those consequences are significant for our children. Psychologist Catherine Steiner Adair conducted a study of youth, ages 4-18, and found that across the board, these kids expressed frustration, sadness, and boredom when asked about their parents’ device use. She discuses the potential damage these parents can cause to the dynamic with their children by getting too engrossed in the digital world in her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age: http://catherinesteineradair.com/books/.

This is particularly urgent to note with babies and toddlers because their development is dependent upon interaction. The brain needs language, play, and engagement in order to grow, and if we are restricting that engagement, we are hampering cognitive progress.

Another important factor with devices is the prevalence of the wireless signal, which emits microwaves, a constant field of electromagnetic pulse. These waves penetrate deeper into young brains and potentially raise the risk of cancer. For more on this, read our blog on Wi-Fi read more.

So what do we do as responsible parents when our lives have become so intertwined with device use? Here are some doable tips for good smart phone hygiene.

  • Schedule calls during the day and limit texting
  • Power down when you are in the house
  • Make a place in your home where the devices live and put them away
  • Reduce all leisure device use like gaming to times when you are kid-free
  • Make a pact in your household to be responsible about screen time
  • Spend more time in device-free environments like the library

The thing about device use is that we are ramping up our usage without realizing it. Awareness and a commitment to one-on-one attention are your best weapons against becoming a checked-out parent.

It’s worth noting that the infamous Steve Jobs had strict limits with devices in his household and many tech business leaders keep device use limited to weekends in their homes3. Talk to fellow moms, and make an agreement with yourself and your mate so that when your kids grow up and parent, they will exercise the same good judgment.

 

References:

  1. http://www.pcworld.com/article/2999631/phones/pew-survey-shows-68-percent-of-americans-now-own-a-smartphone.html
  2. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/04/21/304196338/for-the-childrens-sake-put-down-that-smartphone
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/fashion/steve-jobs-apple-was-a-low-tech-parent.html?_r=0

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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