Put children before phones

“Do as I say, not as I do,” is an old, ineffective parental directive. But research shows that when it comes to regulating use of smartphones and gadgets, parents find it easier to issue orders than follow them, and their children are concerned.

A 2015 study found that 54 percent of kids think their parents check their devices too often. And 32 percent said they feel “unimportant” when their parents get distracted by their phones. Meanwhile, 52 percent of moms and dads agreed with their children and worried that they were setting a bad example for their kids.

New research conducted at the University of Washington and the University of Michigan found that children are concerned with their parents’ smartphone use. “Parents had a lot of rules for kids about no phones at the dinner table, no phones in church, no phones during family events,” lead researcher Alexis Hiniker said. “But kids were equally likely to say that their parents should do the same thing.”

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and Harvard researcher, told CBS San Francisco that the problem of children feeling ignored is widespread and the psychological impact is significant. “Children of all ages use the same adjectives to describe how they feel when they are competing with screens for their parent’s attention,” she said. “Angry, sad, frustrating, and lonely were the words used over and over.”

Almost everyone has experienced that horrible feeling of not being able to hold the attention of someone glued to a phone. When it comes to children and parents, no wonder kids feel angry, sad, frustrated and lonely. It’s soul-crushing to play second fiddle to a phone.

“We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them,” Steiner-Adair told NPR.

Kids are also concerned with what their parents are doing online, such as sharing information about them on Facebook, Hiniker said of the new study. “Kids felt that parents really should ask permission and talk with children before posting anything about them,” Hiniker said. “And parents felt that it was more acceptable to put up whatever was on their mind at the moment.”

Which is another way of ignoring the kids. If children are old enough to be concerned about what they’re parents are posting about them on social media, parents should really, really listen to what they have to say. But they have to put down the device first. Meals are the perfect place to start. No devices on the table. Talk to each other. Listen. Pay attention. Your devices will wait for you.

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