Play with me, not with your smartphone.
Children went out in the street of Hamburg a couple of years ago. They were protesting against their parents’ excessive use of smartphones.
Smartphone ‘technoference’ is creating distance & a wall between parents and their children & has become a real problem.
‘Technoference’ is defined as parents’ use of smartphones & other technological devices that ‘interferes with or interrupts everyday normal family relations & interactions’
It has been proven many times in research that mobile phone use gets in the way of personal interactions & conversations. Study after study have found that the things we use devices for most social media, emails, games, & WhatsApp instant messaging apps feed dopamine receptors in the brain in ways that mimic addiction. As we have all probably experienced it’s difficult to put down your phone — especially if the alternative is to listen to a whining child.
In fact the fallout is well documented — above and beyond anecdotal evidence.
A study from the University of Michigan and Illinois State University found that low or seemingly normal amounts of tech-related interruptions were associated with more behaviour problems in children — oversensitivity, angry outbursts, hyperactivity and whining.
Children are resorting to problematic challenging behaviour, such as throwing tantrums or sulking, in order to get the attention of their parents. I find myself explaining to lots of exhausted parents that any attention, even negative attention is better than none, as explained in this study showing that parents who use their smartphone to escape the stress of their child’s bad behaviour may be making it worse
A larger-scale study, reported by The Swaddle, interviewed more than 6,000 children, aged 8 to 13, across eight countries — finding that more than half them felt their parents spent too much time on the phone.
A further, one-third reported feeling neglected and unimportant when parents were preoccupied with their phones.
Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical and consulting psychologist at Harvard University, and author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, interviewed more than 1,000 children between ages 4 to 18, and found across age groups, kids felt “exhausted and frustrated and sad or mad trying to get their parents’ attention, competing with computer screens or iPhone screens or any kind of technology,” according to this report by The Swaddle.
These studies highlighting the effect parents’ excessive use of mobile phones has on kids have been around for a while.
Here’s a little challenge for you:
Just for this week how about noticing how often you pick up your phone when you are around your kids.
Then notice how they behave with you – what do they do when you are on your phone?
How do you think they feel when you’re preoccupied answering an email or scrolling on Facebook?
Are there certain times you pick up your phone that you could change? E.g when your children are coming out of school & you seem preoccupied instead of engaged & genuinely interested in chatting & interacting with them?
If you don’t like what you discover don’t beat yourself up – just decide to change your behaviour & watch your relationships flourish & your child’s behaviour improve.
Build bridges not walls between you & nurture your child’s self esteem simply by putting down your phone more often.
Here are some tips to help you prevent ‘technoference’ and maintain a healthy balance between technology use in your family life:
Establish technology-free zones and times:
Designate specific areas in your home, such as the dinner table or bedrooms, as technology-free zones. Also, set aside dedicated technology-free times, such as during meals or before bedtime, to promote focused family interactions.
Lead by example:
Children often imitate their parents’ behavior. Model healthy technology habits by minimizing your own use of devices during family time and demonstrating the importance of face-to-face interactions.
Create device-free rituals:
Incorporate device-free rituals into your daily routine, such as reading a book together, playing board games, or going for a family walk. These activities encourage bonding and allow for meaningful connections without technological distractions.
Establish clear rules and boundaries:
Set clear guidelines regarding technology use within your family. Establish rules around screen time limits, appropriate content, and device usage during specific times, such as homework or family outings. Consistency is key for enforcing these boundaries.
Practice active listening:
When engaging in conversations with your children, put away your devices and actively listen to what they have to say. Give them your full attention and show genuine interest in their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Use parental control tools:
Utilise parental control features and apps to monitor and manage your child’s screen time, restrict access to certain apps or websites, and set healthy usage limits. These tools can help you maintain a balance between technology use and other activities.
Encourage offline activities:
Encourage your children to participate in a variety of offline activities, such as sports, arts and crafts, reading, or spending time outdoors. Provide them with opportunities to explore their interests and develop hobbies that do not rely on screens.
Foster open communication:
Create an environment where your children feel comfortable discussing their technology use with you. Encourage open conversations about the benefits and drawbacks of technology and help them understand the importance of balance in their lives.
Plan tech-free family outings:
Plan regular family outings or vacations where the focus is on spending quality time together without the distractions of technology. Engage in activities that encourage bonding and create lasting memories.
Be mindful of your own technology use and its impact on your relationships. Regularly assess your habits and make adjustments as needed to ensure you are prioritizing meaningful connections with your family.
Remember, the goal is not to completely eliminate technology from your lives but to find a healthy balance that allows for quality family time and fosters meaningful connections.