Distracted parenting- we are all guilty of dabbling within the realms of Instagram, emails, texts, apps- taking pictures of our kids while we’re with them, texting pictures of our parenting to our own parents. You name it. Our children have grown up since birth being around us and our smart phones. They are used to being the subjects of photos, every day. But there is an emotional, developmental component to childhood that is somehow, somewhat suffering from our distraction from being truly present with them. Freelance writer and tech expert Hilary Smith offers us a piece here worth reading, although it might make you feel slightly guilty.
~Rebeccca Conroy, Editor of A Child Grows in Brooklyn
In our house we have an “Oh #@$%!” step on our front porch. This lowly step earned this moniker from an unfortunate experience with a bag of groceries raining cans of vegetable medleys onto my toes, resulting in some lovely expletives flowing from my mouth onto our formerly innocent 2 year old’s ears. For days, weeks, and even years our child would yell that exact same, colorful phrase EVERY TIME we passed over that step.
This is a perfect example of how impressionable our sons and daughters really are. They are always watching, learning from our behaviors and actions, even when we are experiencing a weak parenting moment that happens in a blink of an eye. And these moments do happen. As we raise our little ones we will inevitably have a few less than stellar moments over the years. Whether we find ourselves muttering mature curse words during rush hour traffic or letting our children eat cereal for dinner, we can all admit that we have been there. While we learn from our mistakes, a good amount of our not-so- superstar mommy or daddy moments are entertaining fodder for stories later down the road after a little time has elapsed.
Unfortunately, some of our parenting snafus have serious and far reaching consequences that aren’t so funny. Today, we are faced with one surprising trouble spot when it comes to raising our kids. The culprit: technology. Technology and distracted parenting. It’s no secret that our lifestyles rely on using our devices, smartphones, tablets, and more to juggle the demands of work, school, and family schedules. Technology makes it easier to manage our hectic daily lives, but experts are beginning to notice that technology is distracting us and interfering with our ability to parent effectively. As a result, our technology use might be harming our sons and daughters on a deep level.
New research is illustrating how distracted parenting can disrupt a child’s ability to develop the proper emotional processes needed to thrive in life. This can occur when parents don’t offer babies and young children the reliable attention or face-to- face interaction that is needed to bond and develop trust. Even our adolescents and teens need to know that mom or dad will regularly be there to meet their needs.
If we are absorbed with answering emails or scrolling social media, we may inadvertently be sending our children cues that they are not important enough to warrant our full attention. This can hinder valuable learning opportunities to register new emotions, vocabulary, and the development of a child’s system to register pleasure. There is evidence that this interference can lead to an increased risk for mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
A Child’s Perception of A Parent’s Technology According to a recent survey, almost one-third of our kids feel that they are not important when parents utilize their technology and devices. This can occur during meals, family time, watching television, or even while holding a conversation with them. In fact, a whopping 54 percent of children openly admitted that parents are too engrossed with their phones.
A different study, conducted from the University of Washington and University of Michigan, collected data from 249 families around the U.S. and surprisingly researchers found that most children want to have their parents engaged and present. In a strange twist of fate, this was also the parents’ top want for their children. To sum it up, our children want us to notice them and pay attention to their needs and cues.
Looking forward, we need to challenge ourselves to avoid having our children feel neglected or less important than another round of Candy Crush or a work email. By understanding the role technology can play in our parent/child relationships, whether it is bringing us together or interfering with quality bonding, we can make an effort to be present in our children’s lives and model a healthy relationship with technology that will ultimately improve our parenting skills.
With a little effort and proactive planning, we can enjoy technology without worrying that our device usage will be negatively impacting our kids for days and years to come. Hopefully, allowing them a smooth climb to adulthood. This is important to remember, because we want to avoid creating unneeded “Oh #@$%!” stairs in our sons’ and daughters’ lives due to our distracted parenting. Let’s end by each taking a moment to think ponder: how do you keep technology from interfering with your parenting?
Hilary Smith has parlayed her love of technology and parenting into a freelance writing career. As a journalist, she specializes in covering the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She loves all things tech and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t spark her interest. The Texas native currently resides in Chicago, IL and braves the winters with her two children, ages 4 and 7.