In recent years, distracted parenting has become a widespread, if not negative, phenomenon. Most parents are guilty of being distracted by their devices at points in time when they are with their children. That’s because smart phone and screen addiction is on the rise, with many parents feeling both stressed and pressured to respond to every tweet, signal, email and social media notification that appears on their phones.
But then again, many mothers and fathers will argue that they need a little “me” time throughout the day, and that their phones provide them with a way to escape their daily routine, even if it’s just for a short moment. One of the reasons why parents are so easily distracted by their devices is because tending to young kids day after day can be wearing. Statistics show that today’s generation of parents are spending more time with their young children than ever before.
However, this kind of inattentive parenting can have negative effects. Moms and dads looking at their phones while their children have unsupervised play time can hinder your child’s development in more ways than one. Distracted parenting has been found to have an impact on children’s social and emotional development.
1. Are You Physically Present, But Emotionally Removed?
Parents should be both physically and emotionally there for their children. As we all know, a child is an individual with their own set of wants, desires, and needs. Therefore, many health experts will agree that moms and dads must make an effort to be present and connect with them. If you are physically present but emotionally removed, you are not doing your child or yourself any favors.
In order for a child to fully engage with their parent, he or she must put down the phone or device that distracts them from being in the present moment. There’s no point in spending a day at the beach if you are constantly checking your work emails or taking your child to the park if you are there just to update your social media status.
2. Your Child Gets Distracted, Too
The more distracted you are, the more distracted your child will be. After all, children mimic what they see from their parents. If you intermittently check your phone while playing with your baby, they will not get as much experience building up their attention spans. Why? It’s because they don’t have you as a guide to help them process information along the way.
3. You Might Hurt Your Relationship
Our devices are part of our lives, and at this point, we know that they are not going to disappear anytime soon. But we can make decisions about how we use them that communicate our values to our children. We don’t want to send our children the wrong messages. We certainly don’t want to show our children that we value the time we spend on our phones more than with actual human interaction.
4. It May Contribute To Poor Grades
Statistics show that parents who are often distracted might have children who often perform poorly academically. One of the main reasons is because if your child sees you on your phone constantly, then he or she will think it’s OK for them to use their smart phones or electronic devices just as often.
5. It Could Be Sending The Wrong Message
If you are not paying attention to your child, then you are not picking up on signals that might reveal red flags in their day-to-day life. It could also send the message to your kids, unintentionally, that they have to wait to tell you something until you're not "busy" and looking at your phone. This could send the message that you're not as available to talk to as you might be.
"When a parent is distracted and they're not focusing, making eye contact, and especially talking to their infant, that can have negative consequences down the road," Psychiatrist, Dr. Victoria Kelly told WTOL News. "It sends the message that they're not not wanted, that we don't value them, and basically that our phones deserve more attention than them," she adds.
What Can We Do?
Parents can look for important times in the day to be focused and connect, such as returning home from school or work. This is when the phone needs to be put down the most.
Also, set technology-free times such as meal times and bed times but remember that these rules apply to you as much as they apply to your children. Write up smartphone rules, and post them where the whole family can see. They’ll be different for every family, but they can include “no phones at dinner,” “no phones for the first hour after coming home,” etc.
Remember, the goal is not necessarily to be constantly focused on your child all of the time, but to find a balance. Everyone needs a mental break. Your immediate interactions with them will have the biggest impact on them — right now and in the future.