Most are aware of the dangers of texting while driving, but what about the impact of texting while with your children? Is there such a thing as being a distracted parent?
Smart phones and tablets have become a part of our daily existence. We check emails, text, and play games on our devices with greater frequency than ever before. We continue these activities even when we are with our kids. According to experts the effects these behaviors have on them is greater than we realize.
In a recent study by researchers at the Boston Medical Center, 55 parents were secretly observed while out to eat with their children. The observers found that 40 of those caregivers used their phones or other digital devices during the meal and appeared to be more engaged in the device than with their children.
Most of the children of the distracted parents either entertained themselves or acted out in some way to compete for their parent’s attention. Instead of redirecting their attention to the child after they acted out, most of the distracted parents responded harshly to the child for their misbehavior.
Some predict that this type of action can lead to long term problems for both parents and children. Children are learning that their parents are absent even when they are in the same room as them and are beginning to feel as if they are less important than a device to their parents. This behavior can also set a bad example for children as it creates a false understanding of how to act in public. This can become problematic when they repeat the same actions in school or during other social settings.
To address this issue, experts suggest setting boundaries and designating certain “off limit” time for parents to use digital devices, such as during meals and at story or bedtime. Also, avoid multi-tasking. If you absolutely need to answer an email, tell your child you need to take a break – it’s better than dividing your attention. Lastly, try to realistically determine how important it is to immediately respond to a text or email – you will probably find that most can wait.
Remember, your children aren’t young forever. Make the best use of your time with them and avoid spending unnecessary time on your phone. By not sending that next text message, you will be sending an even stronger message to your children.
The content in this newsletter is intended to be informational only. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page.