Monday, 2nd October 2023

Parents, get off your phone

By Yetty Williams
13 March 2021   |   3:02 am
We talk about the fact that children learn more from what you do than what you say. Based on what children and teens are saying, we want to tell parents, get off your phone.

We talk about the fact that children learn more from what you do than what you say. Based on what children and teens are saying, we want to tell parents, get off your phone.

Tim Elmore, a parenting guru, who focuses on growing leaders, shares advise on this matter. His colleague, Andrew McPeak, hosted several focus groups made up of middle school and early high school students. This was done as research for the book, Marching Off the Map.

In a focus group, a young teenage girl said, “I never talk to my mum when I get home from school. She’s on Facebook from the time I get home to when I go to bed.”

This was not an isolated case and they heard this phrase again and again from other teenagers.

There is a pattern. Too many students are complaining about how much time their parent(s) (especially their mum) spend on social media. As a result, they really don’t talk much to parents because of their preoccupation with Facebook or some other social media site.

Some students remarked how mum was laid in bed for hours while on Facebook, or even scrolling through their phone while cooking dinner, leaving little time for conversation between family members.

Shocking Trend – Or is it?

According to a study reported in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, parents’ use of mobile technology around young children is causing negative interactions with their kids. The effect of smartphones and iPads is affecting children who have to wrestle with how to balance the demands of constant email, social media pings, and news feeds.

Three shocking trends are coming out due to the over-reliance on mobile technology and the phone:
Negative interactions between adults and kids
Internal tension and attention-seeking behaviour
Prolonged conflict between family members.

Everyone needs to be aware of these challenges as parents are constantly feeling like they are in more than one place at any given time. While they are parenting they are still at work, and while they are at work they are keeping up socially. At home, while trying to spend time with their children they can be distracted with multiple interruptions ranging from a work email, to a social media like and other notifications – it never seems to stop. Children are watching and noticing all this.

Technology is a problem with Parents Too
Technology is not merely a problem with teens and young adults, but with the adult population and parents as well. Adults are pressured to feel the need to respond to every notification and comment and therefore end up putting themselves at the mercy of the pings.

As Tim Elmore says, if we have any hope of raising a young adult who is not addicted to their phone, we must model that behaviour first.

If we want to raise young adults who are not addicted to their phones, we have to model that behaviour.

1. When possible, find your escape time before you spend family time
We all need time to ourselves. We all need to schedule time for social media activities, especially if you are a heavy social media user. So attempt to get this time to yourself before you get home from work, or if you are a stay at home then get this time in before the kids come home. That way when you are spending time together, you can be emotionally available to them.

2. Learn to mono-task
We live in a day that seems to demand we multi-task. “I am rebelling against this and I’ve found it’s helpful to “mono-task.” says Tim Elmore. Focus completely on one item at a time. Fully engage with digital messages, then, fully engage with people in front of me.

3. Be careful of the trickle-down effect
Beware. When we receive bad news or work email, we can project our negative emotions in response to our children afterwards. Work to separate these. After your screen time and using your phone; pause, breathe, collect yourself, and then engage with family afterwards.

4. Track your mobile use
You might consider tracking how much time you spend on sites or screens in general.
Apps like “Quality Time” can help you track mobile use and see where you may be spending too much time. This is very revealing and can inform choices.

5. Plan sacred space
You can abolish smartphone use at the dinner table or on special outings. We suggest coming up with your sacred spaces where both adults and children realize that screens are off-limits. It feels limiting at first but becomes liberating.

6. Identify Stress Points 
Determine which elements of your portable device cause you the most stress. Then, reserve those tasks for times when your kids are occupied with tasks of their own. This way, no one is interrupting or sending the message: you are less important than my phone right now.

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