Study shows damage of staring at our phones, not our kids

IN somewhat alarming news, a study has revealed that Australian parents are failing to recognise just how much time they spend on devices when they're meant to be caring for their kids.

Researchers at Monash University have suggested parents are "depriving their children of vital interaction and life-development opportunities" through their actions (or lack of) when out in public with their children."

Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology and PhD candidate, Carrie Ewin says, "mobile devices are now a staple in our lives so it's important that we understand how they affect parent-child relationships."

In order to better understand how parents interact with their children, researchers observed parents at food courts and play areas in Melbourne.

If that's not creepy already, they observed and took notes about tapping, swiping and speaking habits alongside reactions and interactions with their children.

The results revealed nearly 82 percent of parents or carers used a mobile device for more than 10 minutes.

"One caregiver was observed spending nearly two hours absorbed in their mobile device," revealed a report from Monash University.

They also reported observing parents missing signs of danger "such as their children falling or wandering off" and very few engaged in conversation with their child at all.

"One parent was so engrossed in their device - for more than 30 minutes - that they didn't notice their son hitting play equipment or crawling over furniture. Another caregiver didn't see their baby standing up and falling out of a pram," Carrie said.

"Another child was observed sitting silently and fiddling with a strap, without sharing any conversation, laughter or smiles, for 20 minutes until she tried to get her father's attention by giving him a hug. Even then, the parent still didn't look up."

Carrie says, "parent-child language is essential for the formation of children's early language skills and also has many other developmental benefits such as bonding and learning to regulate emotions." This is why it is important for parents to engage with their child.

While this is alarming information, and certainly, the details about a child attempting to engage their parent to no avail is heartbreaking.

But we should keep in mind that the research took place in only two locations. Both of those are generally places we go as parents to unwind and have some time to catch up on devices.

My kids are older now so we avoid those play areas with screaming kids as much as possible, but I remember timing my mid-morning walks with two toddlers with a play in those places. I would wander past the local coffee shop, grab a coffee and head over to the play area where the kids can have a little fun while I sit and watch.

Yes, I used my mobile phone, but I was also always aware of where my children were and what they were doing. There's nothing wrong with taking some time out after a busy morning of baby talk and play dough.

Did the researchers ask the parents what they had done just before this? Or what they were planning afterwards?

Maybe those parents on devices for an extended period of time had just come from Kindergym, where they spent an entire hour interacting with their kids. Maybe they had just found out a parent was dying and they were organising palliative care and sending messages asking for support.

Sure, this should be a reminder to not be so engrossed in our screens we fail to realise when our child is in danger. It does happen, and people do need to be conscious of ensuring their child feels like the most important thing in our lives.

But we also need to be mindful that a small window of someone's day at a location where parents generally go to have a breather may not be the best indication of what all parents do on a daily basis.

This originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished with permission.

News Corp Australia

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