Parents, Can You Spare 10 Minutes?
Intuitively, most parents already know that smartphones take us out of the moment with our children and families. We can be so focused on what we are looking at on our smartphone in the moment, that there is no doubt, we are tuned out, absorbed, withdrawn from what is happening around us.
Parents don’t need more guilt. That’s not what this is about. We know we shouldn’t spend too much time on our smartphones in front of our kids. We’ve all read articles about it, and very possibly it was an article we read while looking at our smartphone. We admit it; we all are already feeling a tinge of guilt about it.
But… we actually have reasons for looking at screens all day…
We have email, schedules, research, updates, shopping, messaging, mapping, planning – sometimes even calling. Let’s admit it – again, without guilt or judgment – we also look at our screens for entertainment and distraction. Those are parental needs too. Our phone dependence is a symptom of busy lives, busy work, and restless minds. But the devices themselves are rigged against us. Intentionally or not, their design can trigger addiction-like behaviors in many people. According to this Gallup poll, “about half of U.S. smartphone owners check their devices several times an hour or more frequently.”
The attention we devote to our phones has a measurable impact on our health, wellbeing, and social and family relationships.
Staring at our phones physically can strain our neck, it can spike stress levels, it can disrupt sleep patterns, it can lead to distractedness and irritability, and it may even trigger depressive symptoms in some people. The intense attention we devote to our smartphones has a major, measurable impact on our health, wellbeing, and social and family relationships.
Children are sensitive to feeling when we are more interested in our phones than we are interested in them. In a recent study led by Dr. Sarah Myruski, researchers found that smartphone use by parents directly influenced children on the social-emotional level. The more that parents used their smartphones as part of their daily lives with their families, the less exploratory and engaging the children were in their play, and the fewer positive emotions and behaviors of the children were noticed by the parents.
The good news is there are things parents can do to remedy this problem.
The primary and easiest solution is to give your children 10 minutes of your undivided positive attention 2 times a day. This means that you go into their world talking with them or playing with them with absolutely no interruptions. The smart phone is completely forbidden at this time and is put aside. Agreeably, to make an effort to spend 10 minutes of undivided time with your child may seem like a foolish suggestions, but, for many (probably most) parents with busy lives, intentional time spent together can be surprisingly rare.
This is very doable, and something every parent can do. Try it for a couple of weeks. Watch for our next Parenting Connection article in our MFCC Mix e-newsletter for ideas on fun things to do with your children during your 10 minutes of undivided positive attention.