Couples, Your Phone May be Harming Your Parenting

It’s not abnormal to need a break from ‘mom or dad’ duty now and then, parents and couples often turn to their phones for a quick moment of respite. It’s a way to feel connected to the rest of the world again, and to feel like individual adults with individual personalities again, as much as possible throughout the day.

Technology, like smart phone use, can also be a great resource tool in the world of parenting. But, there is a fine line between using your phone for good (or even as a bit of an escape), and using it as so much of a distraction that it affects your parenting. Smart phones can completely re-shape the way families work nowadays, and that isn’t always a good thing.

When the distraction of your phone starts to inhibit the development of your child, it’s a problem. A recent study discovered that a toddler’s ability to learn new vocabulary words can be disrupted and put on hold by a mother who is interrupted and distracted by her phone frequently. Our kids notice our phone use, and it may be leading to more problems than we realize. The more we are distracted by smart phones, the less communication we have with our children, which can lead to them acting out in a negative way.

It’s easy for kids to feel slighted or ignored, and to think that a phone could be taking their place has to be a hard concept for them to comprehend. They are still children, and still need the attention and encouragement of their parents. It’s unlikely that any of us will be getting rid of our smart phones any time soon. But, there are things you can do to reduce your usage. You and your children will both benefit from it, and once you put these habits into place, they might be easier than you think! Use the following tips to get started:

• Out of sight, out of mind: When you’re interacting with your child, such as teaching them something new or playing with them, keep your phone elsewhere. By putting it in a completely different room, you’ll be less distracted. You’re also showing your child that they are important to you and deserve your undivided attention. If you have the phone in the room with you, it can be too easy to reach for it at any given time. This same tip can be used if you’re supporting your child at their soccer game, dance recital, spelling bee, etc. Keep your phone out of your line of vision, and your kid will know you’re there for them.

• Reflect and revise: If you’ve been having issues with your child(ren), think about how your phone might be contributing to them. Maybe your kids think you don’t listen, and maybe you don’t understand their frustration or why they suddenly are having temper tantrums. It’s easy to get so distracted by our smart devices that we can’t see clearly why problems are occurring, even if it’s obvious. Reflect on your phone use, and how it impacts the relationship you have with your kids. If you think it might be impacting that relationship in a negative way, it’s time to revise your daily usage time.

Smart phones are useful for many things, and they aren’t going away any time soon. But, they may be affecting your parenting and your relationship with your child more than you think. Consider the issues and the tips listed in this article, and you may have a better idea of just how much your phone usage is affecting your child.

Christy Weller, Psy.D., Couples Counseling Boulder. I bring a genuine curiosity, a kind appreciation of where you have been, and a non-judgmental stance so that you feel comfortable exploring your story and making sense of it. I tailor my work to each client and I’m trained in both short-term and long-term therapies.