Distracted parenting: Put down that cellphone!

Parents who allow phones to interrupt family interactions are more likely to have children with behavior problems

ORLANDO, Fla. – On average, people spend almost five hours a day on their smartphones. That’s a third of your waking time scrolling through Instagram, checking in on Facebook, and swiping right on all the apps you’ve downloaded.

When it comes to parenting, this type of distraction can have damaging consequences. In fact, while just about every parent knows distracted driving is dangerous, one study found half of parents use their phones while driving with kids in their vehicles.

That’s just one reason to hang up your phone when you’re with your kids. Research is showing there are plenty of downsides when it comes to using your phone too much around your kids.

Dalena Dillman Taylor, PhD, a Psychologist at UCF Marriage and Family Research Institute, explained how a child might feel when they see their parent on their phone. “I’m interpreting it as I’m less important. I don’t matter. I don’t count.”

A study out of Boston Medical Center found one in three parents use portable technology without pause while dining out with their children. Other research has shown toddlers don’t learn as well when parents are distracted by their screens, and parents who allow phones to interrupt family interactions are more likely to have children with behavior problems. But there is one simple thing parents can do.

“If you have to check an email and your child comes up to you and says, ‘Hey mommy, hey mommy or hey, daddy,’ pause and provide them that uninterrupted time, even if it’s just 30 seconds,” Dillman Taylor said.

Set some ground rules. Put your phone out of sight during specific times of the day, like dinner or bedtime. Turn off any notifications that might tempt you to look at your phone more often and remove any distracting apps you don’t need.

“What’s really going to be most important for kids is they recognize that they count or that they matter to you as your parent, more so than that device in your hand,” Dillman Taylor said.

Recent studies have also suggested a correlation between playground injuries and the rise in smartphone use among parents.