Parents are frequently concerned that if their children use technology, they could face negative consequences. But how many parents consider the lasting effects that their own technology use can have on their children?
You’ll often encounter fears that if children watch too much TV or use electronic devices too often, it will stunt their cognitive and social development. While this can be true, the same can occur when a child’s parent spends more time interacting with their smartphone than they do with their own child.
What You’re Missing
There are many many moments that you can miss by being on your cell phone, even if you’re doing something that you think isn’t harmful, like filming your kids or posting their picture on your Facebook for friends and family. However, when you’re engaged in filming, photographing, and posting, you aren’t engaged in the moment. Viewing something through a screen is not the same as watching your child with your own eyes. It isn’t the same for you, and it isn’t the same for them. They want to see you, not your cell phone. So yes, take as many pictures as you want, but wait until later to sort through and post them so that you can stay engaged in the moment.
You could miss positive moments, but the reality is that you could miss some pretty dangerous moments as well. Supervising your children while they’re playing outside isn’t quite as effective if you aren’t actually watching them. You may feel like you’re simply taking a quick peek at Facebook, but that quick peek can last a lot longer than you think and a lot can happen in a short time.
When you are constantly on your phone, whether it’s during meals or when your child is playing at the park, you miss opportunities for positive interaction with your child. Children learn through interaction, so they miss opportunities to learn how to communicate, interact with others, and a myriad of other social and emotional skills. This is why it is of paramount importance that you interact with your child as often as possible, especially when they are younger.
Children learn to communicate through your example, so what example are you setting through constant use of your cell phone? At worst, you’re inadvertently communicating to your child that they are not as important to you as what is on your cell phone. This causes a noticeable increase in behavioral issues as they strive to capture your attention. It can also cause you to react negatively to them when they interrupt your concentration. Without meaning to, you can find yourself snapping at your children and being angry with them when they haven’t done anything beyond requesting your presence and attention.
You can also set an example that it is acceptable to be distracted by technology and that it is not necessary for them to interact with others. We’ve all seen it - a family out to eat and every one of them is on some sort of mobile device. By doing this they’re missing the opportunity to interact, engage, bond, and form meaningful relationships with each other. Meal times are the perfect opportunity to institute a technology free zone, and can be made even more beneficial by continuing the technology free zone into a family game night with card or board games.
The bottom line is that your kids are, and should be, your top priority. So, set a positive example and show them that they are worth your attention by putting down your phone. Engaging with your children will strengthen your relationships and make you a stronger family.