Sunday May 15, 2016

Your kids are distracted because you are

Two recent studies argue that being tethered to our smartphones is having a negative effect on parenting.

Two recent studies argue that being tethered to our smartphones is having a negative effect on parenting. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

We worry a lot about how much kids use digital technology. But what if the negative impacts on kids, actually come from how much their parents use the tech?

Recent research seems to point to this. One study out of Indiana University found that, if your eyes wander to say, your phone, during playtime with an infant, in the long run, that infant's attention span suffers. And one part of a broader study on the state of education in the UK, warns that parents' reliance on digital devices is creating a generation of children unable to hold a conversation when they first enter the school system.

"I see parents mindlessly pushing their kid on a swing while looking at their phone"

320 Jeana Tahnk

Jeana Lee Tahnk

"The more you're able to talk to your kids and read with your kids and help them foster that learning of language, the better off they'll be," says family tech writer Jeana Lee Tahnk. And that's why she isn't surprised by the findings of the UK study. 

If as these studies suggest, a child's attention span suffers when our attention wanders, what can parents and caregivers do about their use of digital devices? Especially since, whether you're a parent or not, we've become conditioned to respond immediately to everything that happens on our smartphones.

Jeana admits that it isn't easy. "Something I'm trying to do on a daily basis is just trying to cut the cord a little bit and not be so reliant," she says "I think it's really important to be a role model to our kids in terms of how to live with these mobile devices, to help them understand that there needs to be a balance."