Think of all those sleepless nights you’ve spent worrying about how all that screen-time is affecting your kids. As you should.
Children in the U.S. spend an estimated average of 7 hours a day on media devices.
– American Pediatric Association
Now, how much time do you think about your own digital addiction? Well, it’s about time you did.
According to a national study, the average American checks their phone every 12 minutes.
Do you check on your kids every 12 minutes? Seriously. Unless they’re sick, hurt, or out past their curfew, you shouldn’t have to.
Welcome to the rarely discussed world of “Distracted Parenting”, where mom and dad are paying more attention to their hand-held devices than they are to the children.
Sure, parenting has never been without its distractions. Half our trips to the ER were because one of our parents was not paying attention. It comes with a job. But today’s digital distractions have created a whole new ballgame.
We can’t put them down. Even for our kids.
So what’s the big deal?
Oh, joy. A day at the park. The kids can play, and so can you on your smartphone. But when you’re eyes are down you can’t see what they’re up to until it’s too late. Never mind the insanity of texting while driving with your kids in the car, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger are treated in U.S. emergency rooms each year for playground-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The new parental-interaction style can interrupt an ancient emotional cueing system, whose hallmark is responsive communication, the basis of most human learning. We’re in uncharted territory.
Babies need undivided, uninterrupted face-to-face, eye-to-eye responsive communication. Infants crave our high-pitched baby talk and exaggerated motions. They watch our faces and look into our eyes for social cues. They can’t read those cues when we’re glued to our devices.
Fact is, there’s no substitution for actual conversations and interactions between toddlers and adults as “the key to strong language skills are those back-and-forth fluent conversations between young children and adults.”
This theory was put to the test in Philadelphia where 38 mothers and their 2-year-olds were put in a room. The mothers were told they would teach their toddler two fictitious words: Blicking and Frepping. Blicking was to mean “bouncing”. And frepping was to mean “shaking”. Each mother was then given a phone so the researchers could contact them during the experiment. The children did not learn the word when the mothers were interrupted by a call. And did when they remained uninterrupted.
Toddlers cannot learn when we break the flow of conversations by picking up our cellphones or looking at the text that whizzes by our screens.
– Hirsh-Pasek, Professor, Temple University and Senior Fellow at Brookings Institute.
Guess we don’t matter.
Being there” without “being present” is proving to be worse than not being there at all.
Whether parents are well-meaning, or just averting shame, they’ll do whatever it takes to make it to the sidelines to cheer their kids on. Children come first, right? But more often than not, they bring their office with them.
Sorry, I missed your home run, honey. I had to take a call.
Be it a call or a text, to your kid, it’s more important than they are. And the more that happens, the more it hurts.
Dad’s phone is more important than I am.
How can kids compete with a smartphone and the apps designed to swallow us whole? Some don’t even try, leading to anxiety and depression. But others will go to the greatest lengths to get the positive attention they’re begging for. Acting out, seeking the attention of any kind. Believe me, that’s not where you want your kids to go.
Journal of Child Development reported findings that parents who were highly tech-distracted had children with higher rates of acting out through misbehaviors, attention seeking and aggression. Children of tech-distracted parents also showed higher rates of depression and anxiety.
Its time wake up and smell the damage our digital distractions are doing to our kids.
Put down our phones and open our eyes to privilege and joy it is to be truly engaged and enrolled in our kids.
Challenge yourself to a Device-Free Weekend!
See how it feels. Be present to what shows up. Let others know what you’re up to and challenge them to do the same.
(Leave a message on your voicemail and an email auto-response in case there’s an emergency.)
Nix the Notifications.
Silence is golden! You won’t answer what you can’t hear.
Schedule Tech-Free Quality Time
Reserve yours and occasions that would be better spent with connecting to loved ones, including you.
Prioritize Your Home Screen.
Reserve the front screen for the functional apps (weather, calendar, maps, etc.) Move those habit-forming apps to the 2nd and 3rd screens.
Schedule Social Time.
No more than 10-15 minutes twice a day. And to prevent falling in the social media chasm, use and set a timer app.
Remember. It’s not about you, it’s all about them.