From the time they’re tiny human beings, you’re told that you should limit the amount of tech and TV that your child is exposed to. But does the same go for you, too? Well, according to a new study, it turns out that all that scrolling, liking, and commenting on your cell phone could be damaging not just for you, but for your child as well. As it turns out, being on your cell phone affects your child — and not in a good way.
It’s estimated that people pick up their phones 96 times a day, per an Asurion study. When you break down that figure, it means that about every 10 minutes or so, you’re either reading email, talking to someone, or catching up on your Instagram. Although you might not think it’s a big deal, it can become a problem, especially when you’re a parent, according to Dr. Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician at Einstein Pediatrics. “The buzzes and notifications are addicting, sticky, and tear us away from our children,” says Dr. Segura. “And the fact is no one likes talking about this because it’s uncomfortable.”
Your baby loses social cues when a parent is on their cell phone
As much as you adore your infant, there are times when being with Baby all day can become boring. Enter a cell phone to offer entertainment and a much-needed break from feeding and caring for a baby all day long. This is, bonding with your baby starts with (you guessed it) face-to-face contact with your child. “At birth, our babies are born with 100 billion neurons, most of which are not connected. The neurons begin to form connections with one another through ‘serve and return,’” Segura explains. “For example, when a baby smiles and their parent smiles back, social and interactive neural webs are formed which serve as the foundation for language and communications skills as well as emotional control.” So what happens, then, if your baby is eagerly awaiting facial cues from you — and doesn’t get any because you have your phone raised to your face?
Your cell phone usage can affect Baby’s mealtimes
Your baby is taking itty bitty bites of their banana, so you decide to take a sneak peek at your social media until they’re done with breakfast. But even those fast phone sessions can do damage, especially if you’re doing them frequently throughout the day. As it turns out, parents who used a cell phone during feedings were far less likely to engage verbally with their babies, a PubMed study found. Even more interesting was the fact that during a feeding of a new food, moms who were on their phones offered little encouragement to taste something unfamiliar. “Dr. Jenny Radesky’s research showed that parents with active mobile device use had only 20% of the verbal interactions, 39% of the nonverbal interactions, and 28% of the encouragement cues as compared to parents without active mobile device use,” says Segura. “If parents are distracted during mealtimes, research by Dr. Radesky has found that parents are less likely to encourage children to try new foods and mothers who are distracted during infant feeding may overfeed their infants.”
Your child might feel that they have to compete for your attention
Watching TikToks might be an awesome way to pass the time until your baby gets the gas out, but it could send a message to your child that they’re not as important. “This teaches a child that other people and things are more important to you and that the child has to compete for your attention,” says Renetta Weaver, a licensed clinical social worker and neuroscience coach. “This sets a child to go through their life feeling that they are good enough and have to over perform to be seen and heard.”
By using your cell phone frequently, you might not be bonding with Baby
When your baby is happily gurgling (but you’re experiencing Face In Phone Syndrome), your child might start to feel a block between you and them. And that can affect the way that they bond with you. “The way we learn to connect to others is through our parents who are our first teachers — the way they bond and interact with us determines how we interact with others,” says Weaver. “We develop a secure attachment style when we received regular attention from and a sense of connection to our parents. However, a void develops if we didn’t get that, which leads to seeking relationships to fill us up or being afraid of abandonment in relationships.” In order to strengthen your bond with your baby, try to be intentional about your cell phone usage. For starters, make mealtime a tech-free time for everyone. “This will help you and your child to prioritize connecting with people and things in their environment versus living and comparing to someone else’s reality,” she says.
Your baby might not learn language as well if you’re on your phone frequently
Even though it might be a bunch of babble right now, your baby is building the tools to learn language. But if you’re on the phone often, your baby’s skills could suffer. “A recent study in the journal Developmental Psychology found that, when an interaction is disrupted by a parent engaging with a phone, their children are less likely to learn language from the interaction,” Dr. Cara Goodwin, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist tells Celebrity Parents. “This may be because children learn words in the context of a back-and-forth social interaction and, when the flow of the interaction is disrupted, language learning is also likely to be disrupted.”
Your cell phone usage can be a bad example for older children
If any conversation you’ve had with your teen or tween took place with them looking at their phone (and not at you), you’re not alone. But if you don’t want your kid to have their phone in their hands all the time, welp, neither should you. “Children notice or react to parent distraction with phones,” says Segura. “Recent national reports have found that 51% of U.S. teens felt their parents are at least sometimes distracted by their phones during their conversations and 33% wish their parents would spend less time on the device.” Since your child is looking to you as an example, you can turn it into a teachable moment by putting your own phone down and talking to them, face-to-face.
Although it might seem like you should never, ever use your cell phone around your child, that’s simply not reality. As long as you have periods during the day where there are no distractions and you’re having quality time with your kiddos, you’ll be able to enjoy those moments with your child — and still find time for Facebook, too.