Mommy, Are You Listening?

Why Putting Down Your Smartphone Could Be The Best Thing For Your Kids:

Technology has crept into every facet of our lives and we rely heavily on the convenience it offers. You notice it in restaurants or out at the park. It’s hard to miss the abundance of smartphones, with people frantically typing out text messages and snapping photos. We live in the midst of an epidemic of distracted living.

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Children are caught in the crossfire of technology and communication. Parents who are constantly connected to their smartphone miss a lot of moments and conversations in their child’s life. A child is easily able to pick up on when parents aren’t really listening and internalize this unspoken message.

Parents who aren’t engaged in their child’s life are the root of the problem. Smartphones are one of the biggest proponents of this problem, acting as a primary distraction in our daily lives and causing parents to respond inappropriately to children.

Bonds with children are formed by interactions such as eye contact and physical embraces. If children are not receiving the appropriate affection necessary for bond-forming, they will seek more extreme behavior methods for attention.

“They learn language, they learn about their own emotions, they learn how to regulate them,” Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician specializing in child development at Boston Medical Center, said. “They learn by watching us how to have a conversation, how to read other people’s facial expressions. And if that’s not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones.”

Furthermore, if parents are modeling 24/7 connected behavior to their children, why should society expect anything else from these kids? Perhaps it’s time for parents to make a serious effort to disengage from the virtual world and engage in real interactions. Work emails can wait. That viral YouTube video your friend sent you can wait, too.

As parents, we are given a short period of time to imprint positive behaviors on our children – don’t miss out on all that you could be experiencing with them now. That cheesy phrase about life passing in the blink of an eye? It’s true.

Enjoy the little moments with your children. Play with them and foster good communication skills now, because there will come a time when hormones change your sweet baby into a teenager. And unfortunately, teenagers are famous for two-word utterances and a grunt acknowledgment in passing.

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Try these strategies to help you put down the phone and tune in to maximize the amount of time spent with your children. It might be the best thing a parent can do for their child.

  • Create a phone drop zone. Locate a spot by the door and create a place to leave all technology when you enter the house. Make it a point to set your phone down every time you walk through the door, at least for the first fifteen minutes at home.
  • Make a pact to disconnect during family times and events. Agree to a “code word”. Use this phrase as a reminder to power down devices and embrace the moment.
  • Silent your devices. Power your phone down so you are not constantly reminded of missed calls or texts. Let the voice mail take a message and you can get back to the person later. Another good idea is to shut your phones down after a set time every night.
  • Set hours for usage. Consider your family schedules and choose a certain time every day that it’s appropriate for family members to connect to social media, technology, and games. For some homes it might work the hour before dinner and others might prefer 30 minutes before bath time or while younger children are napping. Choose what works for your family and be consistent.
  • Embrace family dinners. Take back that magical hour and enjoy a meal with the family. Talk, laugh, and share ideas over a plate of mac’n’cheese. Research shows that children who eat with their family tend to get better grades. They also are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol or get pregnant as teenagers.

Technology does have a place in a parent’s life, but it needs to be monitored to avoid negative consequences. It’s a little ironic that the very smartphone which is made to help us connect on a grander scale, might actually be hindering our basic relationships. Keep this in mind the next time your child asks, “Mommy, are you listening?”