Are you constantly checking your phone for emails, text messages and social media notifications? Does it sometimes distract you from the time you’re spending with your kids? This may be damaging your family relationship and increasing the amount of conflict and tension in your home, a new study suggests.
In this small study, researchers interviewed 35 caregivers, including mothers, fathers and grandmothers, about how they felt their smartphone use was affecting interaction with their children. The participants reported that using their smartphones affected normal family routines, altered their mood while around their children, and even affected their children’s behavior.
Caregivers admitted that after reading bad news or work-related emails, they responded negatively to their children’s actions. Sometimes, their children even acted out to try to get their attention when they were distracted by their phones. Some caregivers said they had yelled at their children when their children tried to steal their attention away from the phone.
This behavior can affect even young children. Another study reported that 54 percent of kids think their parents check their devices too often. And 32 percent say they feel “unimportant” when their parents get distracted by their phones.
On the other hand, there have not been any additional studies on the long-term negative effects smartphones can have on parent-child relationships. Still, trying to balance the “always-on” sentiment of technology with the rituals of family life can bring unnecessary stress into your home.
Struggling with unplugging from your smartphone? Try these tips:
- Discuss a “smartphone-free” plan with your family and hang the rules up somewhere visible, like on the fridge. This could include rules like no phones at the dinner table, no phones during movie night, etc. Including your children in the conversation lets them give their input on your phone usage and can make it feel less like a punishment.
- Turn off push notifications, so you aren’t constantly glancing at your phone. You can also put your phone on silent or “Do Not Disturb” mode for one-on-one kid time. During smartphone-free times, stash your phone in a designated place in another room, so you’re not tempted to grab it.
- Plan out important tasks. Sometimes, you need to use your phone during the day. If you know you’ll have important or stressful tasks to do, try to plan them for when your kids are outside playing or taking a nap.