Let's face it, parenting is equal parts wonderful and exhausting. Sometimes the most exhausting part, more than the physical exertion of chasing your littles around all day, is the mental strain of constantly being "on." Answering endless questions, explaining all the "whys" thrown your way, and remembering where every water bottle, lovey, and favorite pair of shoes is can be mentally draining. As your kids play around while you take to your phone for a few minutes to clear your head, you might wonder, "does being on your phone a lot really affect your kid?"
It's common to take a "self-care" break during the day to check social media or browse Pinterest, but, if you're like me, you've felt the guilt set in afterwards. How much is too much when it comes to phone use around your little ones? And, what sort of effects can cellphone-distracted parenting have on your kids?
According to an animal-based study by Translational Psychiatry, scientists discovered that distracted parenting may sometimes have detrimental effects on babies’ development, especially their ability to process pleasure in the future. The implications of this study, as TIME reported, can be relevant for how you parent in this technology, device, and social media obsessed world.
Trying to find a balance between staying connected to work, friends or personal interests, all while maintaining a positive environment for your children, is not easy. According to Parenting, 54 percent of children think their parents spend too much time on the phone. 52 percent of those parents agree with their children, while worrying that they are setting a bad example for their kids. The devastating result of this survey, as Parenting mentioned, was that kids felt unimportant to their parents, and like they had to compete with devices for their parents' attention.
If you, like most parents, struggle with balancing device use around your kids, the effort to be present can be a big step. Psychology Today noted that more is not always better when it comes to giving your kids attention. A certain amount of independence and alone time can be good for children, as it allows them space to discover their abilities and interests, and time to solve their own problems. Constant attention, as Psychology Today mentioned, is neither realistic nor appropriate.
Making an effort to be present and responsive around your children can make all the difference. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), keeping mealtimes, drive-times and bedtimes tech-free allows families to chat about their day or sit quietly and daydream, which can be creative, calming, and encouraging for children. The APA also suggested filling kids in on what you're using your phone for, whether it be work or making an appointment, so kids feel in-the-loop rather than neglected.
It's nearly impossible these days to be phone-free all day. Mental breaks, in whichever way you need them, are important to maintaining clarity and patience when around your kids. Beating yourself up over using your phone around your kids will rarely help, but small changes in device-use around them can make a big difference.