Study: Parents Are More Addicted to Smartphones, Screens Than Children

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I love my smartphone, I use it for many valuable and frivolous tasks. I check my banking in real-time, use the navigation to get literally everywhere, keep up with the late-breaking news, do my daily mini-crossword and Wordle from The New York Times, and watch oddly satisfying Instagram videos of people making jewelry.

As a millennial, I fully embrace technology for everything it allows me to do with much greater ease and speed than before. However, I am also realistic and aware of the adverse side effects of electronics in daily life.

Everyone has heard of the harmful effects of smartphones and such on children and the addictive tendency social media has on teenagers. But a news study shows perhaps it’s not the kids that have the bigger problem, but the parents.

Parental phubbing (ignoring by looking at phone)?

New #OnlineFirst research developed a phubbing scale and showed that the more children felt that one or both of their parents were phubbing them, the less the children felt connected with their parents. https://t.co/RvNfy2wLSk pic.twitter.com/vCZxxtL2lh

— JSPR (@JoSoPerRel) October 23, 2020

Put the phone down, Mom

A survey conducted by OnePoll recently found that three out of five American parents admit that they spend more time on their electronic devices than their kids do. On average, parents spend about five hours a day on their electronic devices. 

The sad statistic was that, on average, the parents admitted to spending less than four hours of meaningful time doing activities with their kids. That means most parents spend over an hour more daily on their phones, likely participating in mindless scrolling on social media, than connecting with their children.

This falls in the do as I say, not as I do category of parenting.

It’s important to note that when we discuss ‘electronic devices,’ we aren’t including computers and laptops. Almost all of us must spend considerable time in front of a computer for our jobs, and the same for many children in schools.

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The ‘electronic devices’ we all seem so addicted to are phones and tablets. The same survey found that 80% of parents own at least three of these devices, with 81% of kids owning at least two.

Only 2% of children are like mine who don’t own a single electronic device. Phones and tablets are pervasive, so what has this technological advancement done to us as parents?

Smartphones are damaging our relationships with teens by making us ignore them. A study found that parental phubbing is linked to suicidal ideation in teens, because it sends the message that they’re not worth our attention.

Source: https://t.co/8PPo1PlNku#timemanagement pic.twitter.com/9hbOfw3t8M

— Brad Aeon, Ph.D. (@BradAeon) August 3, 2022

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A whole new term

I had never heard of this term until today, but apparently, there is a new phenomenon in parenting thanks to our cell phone addiction called ‘Parental Phubbing.’ Phubbing is when you ignore someone you are with while using your phone.

So think of that friend you hang out with who spends the whole time on their phone taking selfies for their Insta account, or the spouse who scrolls on their phone like a zombie while you attempt to have a serious conversation. Only this particular form of ‘phubbing’ is a parent who scrolls through Facebook or whatever while their child desperately tries to get their attention.

Any parent is aware of this phenomenon if they’ve had to go to a playground with their child. I was always amazed by it when I would attend my kid’s TaeKwonDo belt testing events – inevitably, my husband and I would be the only parents not glued to their cell phones.

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Another way to understand this occurrence is in the same vein as distracted driving, except it’s distracted parenting. Research done at Drexel University found that 70% of parents admit that they are distracted by their cell phones when they are with their kids. 

Why is it that so many of us can’t seem to pull our eyeballs away from the small screens when in the presence of our most incredible creation? Is it an addiction, or is it something more?

Children with phone-obsessed parents are more likely to be DEPRESSED: Chinese researchers studied 530 teenagers to see if they were victims of parental ‘phubbing’ – where a person is distracted by their phone in their presence. https://t.co/6pt5ILlMv0 pic.twitter.com/B3jZPZvYF3

— RushReads (@RushReads) January 21, 2020

Not all that new

Before I rail too hard on my fellow parents, let me first say that this distracted parenting thing isn’t new. Before cell phones, it was televisions, the newspaper, or ignoring offspring altogether. 

I had reasonably good parents. Still, I can remember times when my folks were more interested in what was on “60 Minutes” or the latest episode of “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” than whatever it was I was doing at the time.

And the truth is parenting can be tedious and difficult. I love my kids, and my husband and I spend a lot of quality time with them.

Neither kid has an electronic device, and I strictly monitor my cell phone use, which is my only device. Let’s face it: playing pretend hospital patient or trying to follow an explanation of my four-year-old son’s dreams can sometimes make my brain want to leak out of my ears and spend time doing something else – like watching Mark Wahlberg’s latest workout video on Instagram.

But it can get out of hand. Most articles you read about the effects of being ignored on the brain will tell you that the process your brain goes through when you feel like you don’t matter is the same process your brain goes through when you are physically hurt.

That means that when your children feel ignored, it’s akin to feeling physical suffering inflicted by none other than their most trusted guardian. Think about it: how did you feel the last time someone you loved ignored you when you wanted and needed them to pay attention to you?

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I bet you feel super bad right now. Don’t worry; grab your phone and see if someone liked your last post.

That’s what our phones give us: a sweet, sweet hit of dopamine straight to our brain bones every time someone engages with our mundane updates. So who cares if we all have “tech neck” bumps and our kids feel disconnected from the two people they should feel the most attached to and the world at large?

Some random dude liked my profile pic update and shared my meme—shame on us.

Illegals’s kids playing ball against landmark Roosevelt Hotel. Nearly smashing out the windows. Parents (?) nearby were on cellphones, smoking weed, socializing. It was a partay. Imagine these families at your kids’ schools. Think they’ll follow rules? pic.twitter.com/aE8kAJF724

— Jacqueline Toboroff 🇺🇸 (@jacquetnyc) August 27, 2023

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