DIGITALLY DISTRACTED PARENTING

     Parenting is HARD! We all want to escape at times. The problem (insert guilt) is the price your parent-child attachment pays is NOT worth whatever you are doing on your phone. If you begin to introduce this device into your babies life, the harder you can remove it-you just end up upgrading. If you are obsessed with your devices-chances are 1) Your kids will be 2) They will resent you. Many kids are very resentful of these devices and are also realizing that they are a burden parents placed on them. They often act out fighting for your attention away from devices-it's all one big fight for human attention.  

     When parents disengage or break eye contact with their children to look at your phone-there are many negative consequences. The importance of eye contact in human relationships, whether at the workplace or in any other setting, is difficult to underestimate. According to Psychology Today, it’s the “strongest form of nonverbal communication.” And according to a University of Miami study, over 43 percent of the attention we focus on someone is devoted to their eyes. It also plays a critical role in the development of emotional connections.

     Few things require more hands-on attention than a young child. And there’s little that’s more distracting than the constant bleeping of our cells phones. When these two things compete for our attention, the results can be sobering. In a new animal-based study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, scientists show that distracted parental attention may sometimes have detrimental effects on babies’ development, especially their ability to process pleasure. 

    Nothing tells another person you matter more than looking at them in the eyes while they talk and paying attention to them. It shows that what they are saying truly is important to you. “Predictability means we know that one behavior will follow reliably with a second behavior,” says Dr. Tallie Baram, professor of pediatrics and anatomy-neurobiology at University of California, Irvine. “That seems to be engaging the pleasure system.” A constant peek at the phone after a DING becomes predictable too and decreases the opportunity for pleasure.

     Adults and children use technology together at the same time, under the same roof, car and table. Children learn through imitation. All primates behave this way, and humans are no different. The obsession children have over when they’re getting a phone is directly correlated to watching us parents repeatedly get lost in the screen. So it isn’t even that we need to spend more time worrying about how technology is taking our children away from us, it’s that we need to lift our own heads and realize we are also taking ourselves away from them. 

   We are, in fact, modeling this behavior for our children.

Regularly separating any human body, and its mind, from a device, whatever it weighs and for however long it is used, is essential for mental and physical wellness. This applies most to children, because their brains are not yet formed and their bodies are still developing. They are the population most vulnerable to societal imbalances (from disease to pollution to any kind of abuse), and in this way they are mirroring our own behavior. They don’t know how to interpret and analyze their feelings of disconnection. They need our help to do so. That is hard to do when you've got your phone in your face.

     A recent study by pediatrician Dr. Jenny Radesky found that a massive 62 percent of children feel their parents are "digitally distracted" while they are talking to them.  When was the last time your child asked you a question or wanted to talk when you were on your phone or other device? Today, or yesterday? In order for parents to address and take charge of our children’s technology use, we must also take charge of our own relationship to technology generally — and to social media specifically — in the context of raising a family and running a household. Although the reasons may be obvious, seems like it needs to be repeated until it sticks for us! Our kids needs us to pay attention to them. You don't want to live with regrets about how you spent the time with them while they still were little.