By Ashley Corbaley
We all have seen it: a mom or dad busily scrolling or texting away on their cell phone on the park bench while their children are playing on the playground. Maybe from time to time we are even guilty of it ourselves.
A few years ago the Wall Street Journal did a report on distracted parenting and discovered that while nonfatal injuries for children under the age of 5 had declined for the past ten years, they rose by 12% during 2007 and 2010. Between the years of 2007 and 2010 the use of smart phones rose dramatically. Even with the improved safety equipment in the recent years childhood accidents have been increasing, and distracted parenting is likely the cause.
Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Texas, likened distracted parenting to distracted driving. She said: “It’s time for parents to be aware that their own screen use needs to be limited when their child is around. It only takes a minute with a caretaker’s eyes and attention elsewhere for a little kid to get into trouble- it’s a safety risk.”
On the other hand, we also should not feel guilty when we check our phone in the presence of our children from time to time. It is no secret that the hours of the years that are supposed to fly by when children are young can sometimes become tedious, and technology might help those minutes go a little faster. In discussing the positive effects of technology, Dr. Radesky, who specializes in developmental behavioral pediatrics at the Boston Medical Center said: “[the use of cell phones] is a huge source of humor and stress relief and connection to work, technology is a tool; it’s how you use it.”
Dr. Radesky gives four suggestions on how parents can become less distracted:
1. Make time to play with your child each day. “It’s the window into your child’s mind,” says Radesky.
2. Tune in to your child when you spend time together. Help your child solve problems and teach him or her how to cope with strong feelings.
3. When you need to connect to your children and listen to them, turn off the television, stow away all devices, and stop thinking about upcoming responsibilities and activities.
4. Take advantage of mealtimes to strengthen your bond with your child.
Distracted parenting can be a real problem if we let it. We are in control of how we use, and how often we use, technology and other sources. Technology is truly a tool and it is all about how we use it. Moderation and self-discipline will assist us in putting our families first, where our priorities should be, and wisely utilize our modern technology and devices.