Regulating screen time for children is a hot topic, but it’s hard to be super strict when we, the parents, are constantly on our own smartphones. Between school schedules, work, newsletters, and more, the deluge of information that comes to parents through email and social media alone is endless. Keeping on top of it all can, at many times, feel overwhelming and almost impossible.
But is our constant smartphone use modeling the wrong behavior for our children? It’s easy to say we need to regulate kid’s screen time to protect them from predators, bullying, and harmful content, but what message are we sending if we aren’t regulating ourselves?
A WebMD report cited that children’s misbehavior can rise when they feel they aren’t being listened to or validated. This can happen when parents are buried in or distracted by their phones, a termed that was coined “technoference.” This is made even more difficult given that parents might be tethered to work via email or receiving text messages; if they don’t reply to their boss are check their text messages there may be real or perceived consequences.
Pediatricians continue to encourage parents to put down their phones and play with their children since 80% of brain development occurs before the age of 3. Face-to-face interaction and age-appropriate activities such as nature walks and reading books are incredibly important for building language and communication skills in small children. Being distracted by a smartphone can hinder the ability of a parent to engage fully with their child, causing them to feel unimportant and missing out on key developmental moments.
As children enter teenage years it is simply hard to tell them to limit their phone usage if parents aren’t doing them same. There are no hard and fast rules on the best way for parents to regulate phone use but many have suggested a few of the basics to stay engaged with your children like pledging to make all dinner times device-free (check out this recent Will Ferrell PSA), checking email at set times – maybe every 2 hours – and leaving devices in a different room when not using them.
Ultimately, there can always be rules and guidelines but the takeaway from every study is to model the behavior you’d most like to see in your children. Moderate your phone use without distraction so you don’t miss out on the all the fun!