Distracted parenting: What’s Happening
Social Media is without a doubt a very useful tool to communicate with the world on a grand scale! FB and Instagram posts have become a part of our day and replaced many real-life interactions with families. This phenomenon is known as Technology Induced Inattentive Parenting. In fact, over the last 5 years, studies on the subject have multiplied! Making the Internet and modern parents usage of it, the focus.
The impact distracted inattentive parenting has on social development has been and is being researched right now. And some results are not good. Delays in speech/ language and cognition. Anxiety and depression. And some behavioral disorders. As well as a higher percentage of injuries associated with Repeated incidents labeled as “inattentive parenting”. But without the internet? You probably aren’t reading this now!
The answer to parents is a better balance. But how? We know less interaction and response to the child’s attempts to ask questions has a negative effect on a child’s development. Study after study is finding evidence that the increased use of cell phones during family time is showing negative impacts on parent-child relationships. And studies have now shown, the use of handheld technology is common today for over 60% of children in the 6 to12 age group. That group when polled reported their parents are often distracted by cell phones or tablets when children try to ask parents questions. This is not the most positive trend.
A child’s behavior is his/her language. Non Verbal children especially have additional challenges in expressing their frustration and emotional distress. Being distracted by technology is the same as being inattentive to the many cues children use to communicate. Can you imagine the impact on babies and toddlers?
Babies come into the world wired to communicate. Newborn infants instinctually look to their parents to begin to understand the sights and sounds of their brand new world! So much is happening for them all at the same time. Learning to trust and learn from the adults in their world who meet their needs for feeding, diaper changing, comfort, and learning too! If a child cries it is to communicate a message to his/ her parent and how that parent responds sets a tone. This is the basis for trust in all parent-child relationships! Babies as young as newborns; look to their parents’ facial expressions to gain important information and most social cues! Being distracted by our phones as the baby is attempting similarly sends a message.
Studies have shown distracted parents often miss critical signs or social cues from their babies before crying. Putting the child’s safety and emotional health at risk. For them, interaction is necessary for their Survival! Repeated incidents of disengagement can have lasting impacts on parent-child bonding and relationships later in life.
So is the answer to throw away all of our devices?
Probably too extreme. But, there is a very sound reason to consider creating a better balance between parenting and helping our children flourish. And extremely important reasons why!
Taking the time to ignore a text to interact with an infant may be potentially devastating for the text sender. But for your child? It is another example of paying attention to the smallest thing can help avoid thousands in therapy! Or at least shift the focus of conversation!
In part two of this Mama talk? More about what helps our kids grow. And ways to avoid the most common detractors of a Parent’s attention!
Dianne Galante is a Former NYS Infant/Toddler Resource Network Specialist for Long Island.