It’s not just kids who are addicted to technology – parents are just as guilty. Parent’s use of mobile technology around young children can cause tension, conflict and negative interaction in parent/child relationships.
Parents are thought to use smartphones and tablets for at least three hours everyday. More than that, parents are finding themselves inhabiting two places at once – looking after their children while at the same time trying to catch up on work emails and social media. Modern technology has blurred the line between work, home and social life and some parents are struggling to find a healthy balance – indeed, some are blissfully unaware of the harm they are doing to their own children.
There is a popular assumption that it’s parents who complain about their kids being glued to their devices, but a recent survey has found that a staggering 34% of children believe their parents are more addicted! The survey was carried out by Jenny Radesky M.D., a child behaviour expert and paediatrician at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, in conjunction with colleagues from Boston Medical Centre.
The study monitored 35 mothers, fathers and grandmothers, and asked them about their mobile technology use.
The team found that each participant consistently experienced internal battles between multitasking mobile technology use, work and children. Many of the participants felt they were suffering from information overload and emotional tension that disrupted family routines such as meal times.
During the course of the study, one mother said it felt like ‘the whole world is in your lap.’ Other parents explained it had a trickle-down effect – whatever they were reading on their device determined how they responded to their children.
Parents also found their children would crave more attention when they were heavily involved with their mobile devices, which prompted negative interactions such as snapping at them.
However, the mothers, fathers and grandmothers also said that mobile technology provided an escape from the boredom and stress of parenting and the demands of running a home. Another mother said that being connected after a long day is a reminder that she had a life beyond her kids.
Technology allows us the ability to work from home and makes it easier to communicate with other family members, giving us a more concise view of their lives without the need to converse face to face or on the telephone. Social media means that conversations can be carried out inside a time frame that fits in with a parent’s own hectic schedule.
It is important for parents to feel relevant at work as well as other parts of their lives but parents should not necessarily be available to their work or to their children all the time. What is important – and needed – is a sense of balance. It’s healthier for children to have some independence but it’s when parents get overloaded and exhausted from being pulled in too many different directions at once that problems start.
So, it’s up to parents to put some simple rules into practice. And here they are…
First off, it is important to set boundaries which will help to avoid web activity that increases stress levels. There’s a time and a place for everything – there must be times when technology is absent, like mealtimes and bedtime.
Leading by example and practicing what you preach is vital – maybe you should cut down on your own use. Don’t use your own phone at the dinner table either. If your child is using their mobile at night, it’s time to take it off them.
Try to eliminate answering stressful emails, text messages or even reading the news online when you’re with your children. Stress communicates to children and they will react to your negative emotions. Leaving problems until it’s appropriate to deal with them means that you are able to think more clearly about them.
You definitely shouldn’t allow yourself to be distracted by technology when your child is trying to talk to you! There’s no problem making rules about technology use – especially when it is for your child’s protection. For example – never use your mobile in the car, not even when you’re stopped at traffic lights!
Finally, it’s never a good idea to share information – especially pictures – of your children online. The reasons for this should be obvious! A good safety measure would be to tape over the web cam on your child’s computer or smartphone – you never know if your child’s device is being hacked!
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.