We've all seen kids tune in and tune out the rest of the world, but parents are doing it too.
Researchers in Boston observed how 55 caregivers interacted with young children at fast food restaurants. Some of the adults were completely absorbed in their devices, texting, swiping and scrolling through the entire meal, ignoring the kids and worse.
Then they found that when parents are interrupted from the activity on the device or smartphone, they tended to be a little crankier. They tended to kind of lash out at the kids and that's not fair. So I think what we're learning is that there is a really important dynamic that's changing the experience of parenthood and it's changing the experience of childhood, said pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.
That's because face-to-face interactions are crucial to kids' development of language and social skills.
Dr. Swanson says that's not to say that smartphones don't have a place in good parenting.
We can coordinate with our daycare providers, our pre-school providers. I can talk with my husband throughout the day via text re our plans for the evening picking up our children, said Dr. Swanson. The school can call me and get me wherever I am if my child needs me, but there's of course a sane balance we have to strike.
In her new book,Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Child Health, Parenting, and Work-Life Balance, Dr. Swanson recommends turning off the phone during meals and at other times.
Take a break, re-engage in just the sounds and the milieu of your house without your devices and help your kids really learn that having some self-control and making habits of taking breaks can be a great luxury, said Dr. Swanson.
The researchers say this study is a good reminder for even the most well-intentioned moms and dads to turn off their phones and tune in to their kids.
When the adults in the study were otherwise engaged in their mobile devices, kids either entertained themselves or acted up to get attention.