Many recent studies have revealed that overuse of smartphones has become a common phenomenon. Further, evidence shows that parent distraction with phones and mobile devices while around children has become common as well. As research scientist Brandon McDaniel found out this can have a direct impact on the relationship between parents and kids.
Cellphones are an indispensable part of our lives that most of us would definitely not give up again. They have changed the way we communicate and interact with each other and simplified the majority of daily tasks - from finding directions to going grocery shopping. However, as with anything good, too much of it can lead to problems.
As many recent studies have revealed, overuse of smartphones has become a common phenomenon especially among young adults. It is mainly characterized by a tendency to check notifications, e-mails, text messages, social media etc. all the time leading up to 344 phone pick-ups daily (1). Not surprisingly, this behavior can also impact our kids. Especially small kids are strongly dependent on the attention of their parents to communicate needs and learn behavioral norms. From day one onwards, babies are watching. They observe what mom and dad do and follow their lead.
For babies eye contact is the most important method of communicating with their parents. With this in mind, smartphones can be a dangerous distraction. As for many of us, it displays a kind of addiction that is difficult to control and often unconscious. However, especially at an early age parents should actively try to minimize their screen-time in front of their offspring. As psychologists have investigated, interaction-based learning begins long before a child begins to talk. At birth, a baby's brain consists of a hundred billion neurons, most of which are not connected. As soon as babies start interacting with people around them, for instance when they smile and parents smile back, or a baby cries at night and gets fed as response, these neurons begin to form connections. This way children learn communication skills as well as important non-verbal emotional cues. However this learning is only activated if parents directly respond to a child’s attempt to communicate.
“Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine observed that when parents were distracted by a device at dinner, they had 20 percent less conversation with their kid and 39 percent fewer non-verbal interactions.” (Carisso Halton)
If we consider how much money today’s tech giants spend on trying to keep us logged in on screens as much as possible, it is not surprising that phone addiction is increasingly more common and difficult to counteract. How can we expect our children to compete with such well-funded campaigns? They try. In 2018 150 children went on the streets and demonstrated for less mobile phone consumption of their parents, carrying posters with the slogan "Play with us! not with your smartphones!" This represents just one example of how clearly children miss their parents attention.
Furthermore, a lack of attention can also have significant impact on your childs behaviour. The American research scientist Brandon McDaniel (Parkview Reseach Center) has studied “technoference” and observed that the more parents were distracted by smartphones, the more kids acted out (2). To make it even worse, this often ended in a vicious cycle, where parents stress became stressed as kids acted out, resulting in a higher media consumption and finally more acting out.
“We are allowing tech to interfere with our relationships, and that feeds back into how our children are doing” (Brandon McDaniel)
In conclusion, smartphones have greatly improved our lives by making so many daily tasks less painful. Let’s just always remember to limit their usage to the beneficial parts and be a good role model for our kids.