Addicted To Your Phone? You’re Harming Your Kids Too

It’s all very well to limit your child’s screen-time, but if you’re not setting a good example it could be a wasted effort. Here’s why.

addicted to your phone you're harming your kids too

As parents, we face constant dilemmas about whether we’re doing the right thing for our children.

Do they eat enough fruit and veg? Are they getting enough exercise? Have they signed up for too many extracurricular activities? Are they socialising enough – or too much?

But there seems to be no bigger issue among 21st-century parents than how much screen time they should allow.

Most make a conscious effort to monitor the amount of time their offspring spend in front of the TV, they limit iPad sessions, and even make sure mobile phones are only used for emergency calls.

One four-year-old called his dad’s smartphone a “stupid phone” while others admitted throwing a parent’s phone into the toilet, putting it in the oven or hiding it.

But despite this vigilance when it comes to their kids, many parents forget to apply the rules to themselves. And this could be far more damaging.

A number of studies have been carried out looking at how parents’ use of technology affects their children’s behaviour. The results make uncomfortable reading – and parents should think twice before endlessly browsing Facebook or scrolling through Twitter in front of their kids.

Poor behaviour

“Technology-based interruptions in parent-child interactions” – otherwise known as ‘technoference’ – could be linked to poor behaviour among children.

In a study published by the journal Child Development, almost half (48%) of the parents involved admitted to three incidents of technoference each day. According to the researchers, such interruptions seemed to coincide with young children being more prone to whining, sulking, restlessness, frustration and temper tantrums.

Breaking the bond

If you constantly tell your kids to “wait a minute” while you finish typing a text, or answer yet another phone call in the middle of a makeshift tea party or football game, you might want to reevaluate your behaviour.

The bond between parent and child is set at an early age. If you don’t listen to your kids when they’re young, they’ll think you’re not interested in them. And if they think you’re not interested, they’ll stop talking to you. It’s as simple as that.

Mimicking behaviour

The old saying ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ rings particularly true if you’re frequently whipping out your iPhone in front of your child.

It’s only natural that children want to copy the actions their parents – whether it’s pretending to drink a cup of coffee or dressing up in your clothes. So you can’t expect to impose strict screen time on your children when you don’t follow the rules yourself – especially with younger children who won’t understand your reasoning.

It’s also important to remember tablets and smartphones are at their most damaging when it comes to small children. Research from the University of Toronto and The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto has shown that putting babies in front of iPads before the age of two stunts speech development – highlighting the need to put your devices away when looking after the little ones.

Emotional detachment

Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair wrote a book about parenting – The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.

During her research she interviewed 1,000 children between the ages of four and 18, asking about their parents’ use of mobile devices. Over and again she encountered worryingly negative language, with words such as ‘sad’, ‘mad’, ‘angry’ and ‘lonely’ cropping up repeatedly.

One four-year-old called his dad’s smartphone a “stupid phone” while others admitted throwing a parent’s phone into the toilet, putting it in the oven or hiding it.

We don’t know exactly how much these moments of disconnect between a parent and child affect the child in the long term, but based on these stories do you really want to take that risk?