Most of us are guilty of it, some more than others.
Well, it turns out that our excessive cell phone use may be affecting our kids more than we realize.
A recent international survey by online security company AVG found that most kids feel like they’re competing with their parents’ mobile phones for attention.
I mean, sure I’ve thought about how my incessant cell phone use is affecting my daughter. I even put the phone down mid-email from time to time when my daughter is vying for my attention.
Then I hear the dopamine-inducing ping of my text, email or voicemail alert, and I inevitably make an excuse to pick up the phone again.
My text tone is my toddler’s giggle and my voicemail alert is her saying “uh oh!” An ironic twist.
Let me tell you, covering this story did a number on me. It’s a must-watch for any parent with a mobile device.
Talk about convicted! I felt like I was in a personal therapy session while interviewing clinical psychologist and Harvard researcher Dr. Catherine Steiner Adair.
I literally asked, “Have I ruined my child?” She laughed and told me that at 2 years old, the damage is still reversible.
Dr. Adair says the AVG study backs up the findings outlined in her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.
Adair points out that technology can literally change the way we respond to the world around us—and that can be damaging to our children.
One of the problems is that when we adults are texting and emailing, we respond very differently to our children when they interrupt us. You know, your 2-year old comes in and you’re scrambling eggs and she says, “Mommy, I can’t find my stuffed animal.” If you’re just scrambling eggs, you’re much more likely to be warm and reassuring: “It’s okay honey; I know exactly where it is.”
If you’re texting, your tone of voice is usually more short and a little more annoyed: “Hold on. Wait one sec, honey. This is really important. This is work.”
We don’t respond in the same loving tone of voice. When we’re texting or typing for email and it’s very important, our empathy drops, our ambient awareness drops. Our awareness of who we are with and where we are in time and space drops, which is why we do things like text and walk into intersections, and get hit by cars.
She acknowledges that we can’t be expected to give our children undivided attention 24/7, but we should carve out special segments of the day that are digital free.
According to Adair, these are some of the most important periods of the day to PUT DOWN THE PHONE!
- Getting ready in the morning.
- An already stressful period.
- In the car to and from school.
- Safety issue aside, this is an opportune time to connect.
- Walking in the door after work.
- She says stand in the rain if you have to, but finish your call before walking in the door. This is a key moment for parent-children affirmation.
- At dinner
- She points to studies that show kids feel their parent’s cell phone use at the table is hypocritical. It undermines the screen-time limits parents place on kids.
- Bath time.
- Preventable accidents are up 22 percent due to caretakers with digital distractions.
- Studies show kids consider this a special—almost sacred—time.
#NewsMom Bonus Story
While covering a story about cell phone radiation (EMF) I asked another “personal aside.” The response rocked my world and prompted me to ban cell phones (and all wireless devices) from the bedroom.
Checkout this post for the answer to the question “How dangerous is it that I keep two cellphones and a wireless baby monitor in our bedroom where my child sleeps?“