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The Effect of Smartphones on Parent and Child Relationships

Hello, Mom? Dad?

Smartphones have become an integral part of lives. Just in the past two years, we have seen the vital role that Smartphones have had in our daily interactions both personally and professionally. Our Smartphones allow us to do business virtually, connect to health providers, pay bills, shop online, and access a vast amount of information on any topic. Our Smartphones allow us to be accessible at all times and have changed the way we interact with our family, co-workers and peers. Although the Smartphones have had positive impacts on the way we do business and our daily interactions with people, studies show that Smartphone usage is affecting parent and child relationship in a negative way.

Young children depend on their parent’s attention not only for survival needs but for social/emotional development. When parents are on their Smartphones or texting, it distracts them from being fully present with their children. Distracted parental attention harms social/emotional development. Children may feel they are not being heard and that they are not important.

Furthermore, young children learn to handle big emotions through human interactions and modeling. When parents are distracted on cell phones, they are often less patient, irritable and agitated with their children’s behavior. This results in escalated behaviors both at school and in the home. Children learn and thrive by positive human interactions. However, when parents’ one-on-one time with their children is disrupted by the Smartphone, parents are teaching their children to disconnect in similar ways as well. The tech interruptions start early on in parent’s relationships with their kids, disrupting even little things such as eye contact; and the consequences are real.

Parents’ Smartphone usage is also a contributing factor driving the mental health crises affecting our children. Research has shown that children under the age of 5 are experiencing greater levels of anxiety and depression than any other generation before. Another study showed that when parents were distracted by the phone at dinner, they had 20 percent less conversation with their child and 39 percent fewer non-verbal interactions.

In order to build strong parent and child relationships, parents need to put their phones down. When you take your children to school and/or pick them up, be fully present to help them process the day and the big emotions they may be experiencing. At home, be intentional on spending one-on-one time with your children without distractions from the Smartphone. Be mindful in front of children by putting the Smartphones down during meals or whenever your child needs your attention. Make eye contact, listen attentively and be fully present for your children.

Your children need you! Their mental health and social/emotional growth depends on it.

By Carmen Dorton, Mental Health Assistant