Have you ever noticed how many parents are looking down at their phones and not engaging with their children? I see it all the time at parks, libraries, and even in homes, and it breaks my heart. We have a generation of boys and girls growing up with minimal parent interaction. Maybe that’s you. I am not here to condemn but to awaken. Why? Because if adjustments are not made soon, the dangers of distracted parenting will manifest into considerably greater problems as these children age.
We are a decade into smartphones and social media—a decade into distracted parenting. Did you know that 90 percent of a child’s brain growth happens by age five? And in subsequent years, children learn who they are and how they fit in and they develop personal values and beliefs. They need their parents in these formative years. But our kids don’t get what they need from parents who constantly give their attention to lesser things. Unless we are really disciplined with our phones, we’re going to hurt our children. Here are 5 dangers of distracted parenting.
1. It stunts your child’s emotional growth.
When parents are distracted and unengaged with their children, those children miss out on a crucial buffer to help them express emotions through healthy outlets. This void can potentially create behavioral issues. Dad, get in the game, literally. An actively engaged father helps relieve his children of stored-up energy in a positive way and helps set boundaries when physical play becomes too aggressive.
2. Your child feels insignificant.
Think of the silent message distracted parenting sends to your kids. For a child whose dad is constantly on his phone, it’s easy to believe that “something else is more important than me.” Failure to fully engage in your children’s lives robs them of any experiences that prove they are worth somebody’s undivided attention, thus reducing self-esteem and confidence. And it robs you of invaluable opportunities to be fully present in moments that only happen once.
3. It delays your child’s brain growth.
I will not deny we all have important obligations. What I will refute is the use of devices as a form of babysitting, which can seriously inhibit brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 18 months and only two hours a day for children over the age of five, including teenagers. Are your children on screens for beneficial reasons, or just so you can do your own thing? Also be wise to the behavior you model to your child through continual personal screen time.
4. Your child does not develop communication skills.
It is not possible for a distracted parent to hold authentic dialogue with a child. A parent is a child’s first teacher, and conversational skills children will need to function as adults are drastically hindered when families are not actively communicating. Around the dinner table is one of the top examples of where dialogue can occur, but do not underestimate car rides, before and after school, and even at parks, libraries, and social gatherings.
5. Your child doesn’t develop empathy.The phone can wait; precious moments with your children cannot.
I once saw a toddler tip over backward in her chair at the library. Coming to her mom crying and looking for comfort, she was met with resistance. The reason? Mom was too busy on Facebook. Whether two or twelve, when our children continually receive the message that their problems are not ours, they struggle to develop empathy because they rarely received it themselves. That spilled cup, lost item, or botched school project may not seem like a big deal to us—but it is for them.
Maria Edgeworth said, “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” The phone can wait; precious moments with your children cannot.
Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 10 Cell Phone Rules for Moms.
Sound off: How will you avoid the dangers of distracted parenting?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How often do you see me on my phone? All the time, sometimes, or rarely?”