Plugged-in parenting: Being glued to your mobile phone is hurting your family, new study finds

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According to a study, how parents use their mobile devices can have negative effects on their family dynamics

Much has been said and written about how we should limit our kids’ screen time, but what about parents? Most of us are in front of screens all day at work, and at home, we’re often on our phones, checking emails, reading articles, and scrolling down our social media feeds.

Plugged in parents, however, are so distracted by their smartphones and tablets that it affects their home life. According to a study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, parents’ multitasking with their mobile devices around young children can be causing “internal tension, conflicts, and negative interactions with their kids.”

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“Parents are constantly feeling like they are in more than one place at once while parenting. They’re still ‘at work.’ They’re keeping up socially. All while trying to cook dinner and attend to their kids,” said lead author Dr. Jenny Radesky.

The researchers observed that what parents see online often affects their mood, Inc reports. A stress-inducing work email or a bad interaction could cause them to lash out at their family, for example. Distracted parents glued to their phones also prompt their kids to act out with more attention-seeking behavior.

Why are parents so glued to their phones?

Technology is addictive on its own, but parents seem to be especially susceptible to becoming attached to their devices. Radesky and her team found that parents use their mobile devices at an average of three hours a day.

Parents were reported to saying that technology was their “escape” from the boredom and stress of parenting and home life. One mother reported that plugging into the internet reminded her that she had “a life beyond this.”

But technology does have its undeniable advantages: it allows parents to work from home, communicate with family members, and entertain kids.

“You don’t have to be available to your children 100 percent of the time — in fact, it’s healthy for them to be independent. It’s also important for parents to feel relevant at work and other parts of their lives,” Radesky said.

“However, we are seeing parents overloaded and exhausted from being pulled in so many different directions.”

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Photo: Pexels

So what should parents do?

Radesky and her team recommend that parents do the following to limit screen time and focus on the family:

1. Set ground rules

Agree on certain times of the day when you and your family will unplug from your devices. This could be during mealtimes or bedtime, or when you get home from work. You could also agree to only use your devices in a certain room, or never use your devices in certain areas, like your children’s bedrooms.

2. Monitor your screen time

You could download an app like Moment and Quality Time, which tracks your mobile use. This helps you see which apps eat up most of your time and helps you be more mindful of your behavior.

3. Take note of what stresses you out

If reading the news or checking your work emails stress you out and affects your mood, only do this when your kids are busy doing their own thing so you have the time and space to process your negative emotions.

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