Your smartphone may help you coordinate your schedule and keep you connected with work, but it’s doing a lot of damage to your relationship with your children, according to a new study.
Researchers from Boston Medical Center did an undercover study in 15 fast food restaurants to observe parents and children together. Parents in 40 out of the 55 families observed were completely absorbed in their cell phones. They were busy texting, talking, swiping through social media—but not communicating with their children.
What’s interesting to note is the children’s reactions to their parents’ behavior. For the most part, the children appeared to be unaffected and continued eating their meals quietly. Some clamored for attention by singing songs, but all were negatively impacted by being ignored.
But what is worse, though, is the parents’ reaction when their children wanted their attention. One child was kicked under the table in response to her child trying to get her attention, and another dad was clearly irritated and responded harshly to his children. “There were a lot of instances where there was very little interaction, harsh interaction or negative interaction between the adults and the children,” says Dr. Jenny S. Radesky, a lead author of the study. “That’s simply unfair to the children.”
Radesky is currently working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop some guidelines for smartphone usage in front of children. “We need to create boundaries for these devices when we are with our children,” advises Radesky. So in the meantime, make sure to put your phone down from time to time so that you can spend some quality time with your kiddos — sans screens.