Do you love your phone more than your child? Of course not, you say. But unfortunately, the kids of today are getting a very different parenting experience than we did growing up. And what kids say about their parents smartphone addiction might shock you. Or make you cry.
And before you deny up and down that you’re not one of “those parents,” please keep in mind that every parent is guilty of this. We are a society addicted to phones. That’s why its important to keep ourselves in check and accountable as parents. Read on for more on parental smartphone addiction and what you can do about it.
When Parents on Smartphones Become Distracted
“Hey Mom, look at this.”
He lifted his Lego creation to my face, holding the tiny blocks with tiny hands and a big smile. Clearly proud of what he had done. But instead of looking (like, really looking), I gave him that out-of-the-box default mom answer: “That’s cool sweetie.” A quick glance, and I was back to what I was knee-deep in to begin with. After all, these Google searches weren’t going to read themselves.
Before I could react, he sighed as he turned abruptly and went back to his work. And it took me about 10 full seconds before I realized what I had just done.
I set the phone down immediately, feeling ashamed that I didn’t take 60 seconds of my time to look at my child’s Lego build (like, really look). I was hoping that he could forget that I had chosen my phone over him, again.
Luckily, my child is fast to forgive. He just wants mom’s attention.
You might hear the same thing at least a dozen times a day, while you’re loading the dishwasher, making dinner, or helping another child with homework. But you know when they like to say “Hey Mom” the most? When you’re sitting on the couch, eyes glued to a screen while you text back that friend, email that client, or scroll through feeds.
It’s like children understand WHY dishes need to be done. They see that laundry should be folded, or the hunger in their tummies will excuse you to make dinner. But one thing kids cant understand? Why you would rather be on your phone than with them.
As a parent myself, I understand (boy do I) that sometimes you just want to SIT FOR TWO SECONDS undisturbed to mindlessly look up symptoms to diseases we don’t even have. Just to be sure.
But unfortunately, the need to be “in the know” with literally everything is destroying our society. And the pace is picking up. This is creating parents that are detached. It’s also breeding narcissists every day. Don’t believe me? Read below.
Why Your Phone Obsession is Really Hurting Your Child
With parents looking more to their phones than their children, this causes a few problems.
First off, we are detaching from them. Try as we might to multitask, it’s actually impossible. Online desires become louder and children’s emotional needs become quieter. If you think your kid isn’t keeping tabs, consider this: 40% of children think their parents are addicted to their phones.
Being more involved with the phone means we’re less likely to help them solve problems, whether that be between siblings or a simple math problem.
According to Lifeworks, in a massive study involving almost 6,000 kids ages 8-13, 32% of children reported feeling “unimportant” when their parents were on their phones. In another study, children admitted feeling “sad, mad, angry, and lonely” when their parents were more absorbed with a device than them.
In yet another study, 55 caregivers were observed while eating with children in fast-food restaurants. 40 were completely absorbed with their phones, with some ignoring their children completely.
All this detachment is causing behavioral problems, developmental problems, and an increase in narcissism. And when we parents excessively use phones, our children will most likely become phone addicts themselves.
What’s worse, is that we may use other devices to distract or entertain our kids, so we can do what we want without being disturbed. In a room full of family, it’s sad to see everyone in their own world online, instead of using the time to connect with each other.
Bad Phone Habits are Hard to Break
But wait, you may say, I’m not THAT BAD. I work full time, I’m a provider, I have THINGS to do. You may also be thinking that it’s good for children to not have access to you at all times. Listen, I hear you.
But hear me out.
True, we adults have responsibilities. After the pandemic, more people than ever before started to work from home. That means emails. And zoom calls. Text messages and correspondence that is vital to keep food on the table. And no one pays their bills in-person anymore (except maybe my mom). Everything is done within the online arena. All important things.
Yet we’re also looking to the phone as a means of escape. When work is done, we stay on the phone, opening up different tabs or apps to “unwind.” We find ourselves engaging with “friends” or trying to educate ourselves to make more money or bring an ounce of happiness to our existence. All the while, little eyes are observing our every move.
So what can you do? Here are 5 ways to put down the phone and connect with your kids again.
5 Ways Families Can Control Phone Addiction
1. Be intentional and set strict boundaries
If you want to be more strict about phone usage, that means you need to be intentional with your time spent on your device. Just because we have access to our phones 24/7, it doesn’t mean we need to be ON them around the clock. This means that we need to set boundaries and be vigilant of how we’re spending our time online.
For help on setting boundaries and breaking phone addiction, please see this post on 5 Practical Tips to Break Phone Addiction Now
2. Stop, drop, and pay attention
If your child is constantly interrupting you while you’re on the phone, this may be a sign that they don’t feel like they’re getting your undivided attention.
While there are definitely times when we really can’t break away, we can make an effort to give our child quality attention before we pick up our devices. This means that we take 5-10 minutes to talk with them, look at them, and let them know we care.
If they want to tell you about their latest Lego-build, or talk about their day, or tell you for the 16th time how Minecraft works, so be it. As parents, we need to be a listening ear and communicate positively with our kids, without phones pulling us away.
Try this: when you’ve been on the phone a while and your child comes to talk to you, 1) stop what you’re doing, 2) put your phone down, and 3) give them your full attention for 60 seconds. Your child needs to know that they matter more than the phone, and they need eye contact for healthy communication, as well as a thoughtful response from you.
For some of us, this can be hard to put into practice. The first few times, you may still be thinking of what you were doing, struggling to listen to what your child is saying. That’s ok. Just try to be consistent and continue working on it.
2. Get your kids OFF the phones
Parents, controlling phone usage in the home also means that we are vigilant with how our children spend time on screens and phones.
A survey given by the Genius of Play (shared by the New York Post) revealed that 58% of parents admitted to using a screen to keep their kids occupied. 53% used it as a reward and 52% used it as a calming method.
True, there’s no stopping the technology usage for the modern-day family. It’s literally impossible to raise kids without some sort of screen. However, it’s more important now than ever that we protect our children from consuming too much screen time. Biblically speaking, we have to train our children early on, instilling good habits that they can carry into adulthood.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)
4. Try No-Tech Tuesday
One approach for controlling phone usage (as well as any screen time) within the home is dedicating set times for no technology.
A podcast episode presented by Focus on the Family, titled “Screen Time: Less is More,” did an excellent job discussing this topic. In this episode, Jonathan McKee shares his tips for cutting down on screen time, including a “No-Tech Tuesday” that he put into practice with his own family.
Blocking out set times that are tech-free, and using this time to bond with your kids is so important to develop healthy family relationships— and healthy kids.
You can use this no-tech time to play board games, hang outside, go for a walk or bike ride, or have family devotional time. The key is to make a consistent effort to show your kids that there’s life away from the phones, setting healthy boundaries and habits for years to come.
5. Talk about it
Lastly, we have to talk to our kids! If you don’t talk to your kids, the world will.
A parent’s guidance is immeasurable for young children. Be a loving and kind voice to them, in a world that is constantly confusing. Share your thoughts on your own phone usage, as well as goals you want your family to achieve.
This can teach your children that there is power in recognizing that you have a problem, or how to recognize a problem before it gets out of control. Seeing you take action on that problem will teach them (even subconsciously) that people need to take accountability for their own behavior.
The point is that we be honest with our children. This goes a long way.
Remember: if you don’t talk to your kids, the world will.
Children are only children for a time, and then they’re grown. Many parents of adults will tell you (myself included) that the time goes by faster than you think. You blink and it’s gone. How tragic it is to think of all the time we spend online, scrolling social media instead of making a real effort with our kids. All because we’re “tired” or we just need a minute to ourselves.
This isn’t to say that you should never ever ever be on your phone. But consider this: the average person spends almost 4 hours on their phone. That’s 28 hours a week that people are more invested with their device than their families.
What would you rather do with the time?