In the discussion of screen time; we need to talk about how distracted parenting is affecting children. We all know the ongoing debate of how much screen time is too much, how do we ensure that our children develop well? When it comes to children’s development, parents should worry less about their child’s screen time—and more about their own.
Rather than focus on screen-obsessed young children, we should be concerned about distracted and tuned-out parenting styles.
The engagement between parent and child is increasingly low-quality as parents are constantly present in their children’s lives physically, but they are less emotionally attuned.
Substantial evidence suggests that many types of screen time (especially those involving fast-paced or violent imagery) are damaging to young brains. Today’s preschoolers spend more than four hours a day facing a screen. And, since 1970, the average age of regular screen time usage has gone from 4 years to just four months.
Time spent on devices is time not spent actively exploring the world and relating to other human beings.
The Importance of Parents Communication
Children learn from interacting with their parents and hearing their parents speak to them. One study showed that infants exposed to this emotionally responsive speech style knew twice as many words at age 2 as ones who weren’t exposed to it. Parents who are guilty of “continuous partial attention” are loosing out on this opportunity.
“Language is the single best predictor of school achievement, and the key to strong language skills are those back-and-forth fluent conversations between young children and adults.” It is therefore a problem when the adult–child communication which is so essential to early learning is interrupted—by a text, for example, or a quick check-in on Instagram.
Child development is relational, which is why, in one experiment, nine-month-old babies who received a few hours of Mandarin instruction from a live human picked up the language. On the other hand, another group of babies who received the exact same instruction via video could not.
Distracted Parenting Leads to Increased Injuries
Patent Ignoring Children
If you go into a restaurant and watch families, you will notice that majority are on their devices. In addition a study showed that a majority of parents were absorbed with their phones and almost entirely ignored their children. The researchers found that typing and swiping were bigger culprits in this regard than taking a call. It was also noted that many of the children began to make bids for attention, which were frequently ignored. Lastly, these parents have fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions with their children.
Child development experts fear that children may feel they are competing for attention when parents are glued to their gadgets. Smartphone use may even be harming children’s social development, with children seeing that their parents think that socializing with a screen as just as good as face-to-face interaction.
Occasional parental inattention is not catastrophic (and may even build resilience), but chronic distraction is another story. Smartphone use has been associated with a familiar sign of addiction which is that distracted adults grow irritable when their phone use is interrupted.
What a parent is communicating through his or her behavior is that a child is less valuable than an email. We are not suggesting that you should be with your child 100% of the time. However when you are spending quality time with your child; let it be uninterrupted and not distracted.
The truth is, we don’t really know how much our kids will suffer when we fail to engage.One of the ways we see this is in more tantrums from children who feel ignored.
Make Eye Contact
Making eye contact is extremely important when having a conversation with your children. It shows them that you are present — that whatever you are talking about is more important than the rest of the world around you. It is difficult to make good eye contact when you are staring at the screen in your hand. Be mindful of this and put your phone down when speaking/listening to your children.
Digital World Affecting Everyone
The reality is that this new digital world is difficult to navigate for everyone. This includes adults who have also become victims; adults have built their daily life around the premise that they can always be on. Always working, always parenting, always available to their spouse, friends, WhatsApp groups and anyone else who might need them. All this while also staying on top of the news, responding to DM’s, while also remembering to order more food, buy diesel, pay for the internet and so on. Everyone seems stuck in this digital always connected pressure cooker.
It is easier to focus our anxieties on our children’s screen time than to pack up our own devices. It really starts with us the parents and adults, after all the children do what we do not what we say. So before you say these children are always on screens, what about you stop ignoring them. When you are spending quality time with your children – be present and put down your phone.