How many times do you check your smartphone when you’re playing on the floor with your child, sitting at a playground with him, or eating dinner? Between breaking news, incoming emails and texts, and distracting, time-wasting apps, our phones can be tempting. Plus, it’s difficult to shut out work colleagues, friends, and extended family when you know they’re at your fingertips. But when you’re one on one with your young child, putting away your phone can be beneficial for both of you!
Reduce Your Stress. Sure, you may have just picked up your phone to check on a funny text from a friend, but mostly likely, when you do so, you’ll see a stressful work email or a jarring news headline as well. Though you may not notice it, your stress builds every time you intercept an email from your boss or a bit of breaking news that is violent in nature. Taking a break to spend time with your child helps to break down that daily stress load.
Increase Face to Face Interactions. Infants and young children learn a lot from their face to face interactions with you. They develop their own expressions, verbalizations, language, and communications styles by looking at your face and how you communicate and respond. Take your chance to hold your child, talk to her, and feed her, and do it without distraction, because her connection to your face means a great deal.
Get Better Connected. Think about the strong connection you have with the outside world via text, email, Facebook, and the news. Then think about the time that you spend on your phone or tablet, and how that detracts from the time you spend building a connection with your child. For a child who is developing rapidly, every day’s activities and interactions are incredibly important, and adding precious minutes to the time you spend connecting with him each day have a real impact.
Set a Good Example. Kids learn behavior from their adult caregivers. If you are attentive, a good listener, give positive encouragement, and offer respect, your child will learn to do the same. Modeling disinterest or poor listening skills by pulling out your phone in the middle of playtime can send a message that it’s OK to check out in the middle of an interaction, or that another person’s time is not important.
Keep Behavior in Check. Studies have shown that when caregivers are on their phones, children are more likely to act out. Their behavior is likely due to frustration and a lack of attention. Further, if you’re on your phone, you may be less likely to respond to negative behavior from your kids. Stop the cycle in its tracks by staying attentive when your with your kids.
Our smartphones and tablets feel like a lifeline to other adults, work colleagues, friends, and family. And of course, it’s unrealistic to expect that parents will shut off their phones the minute they come into contact with their kids. But deprioritizing your phone when you’re with your children will have a lasting impact on your relationship.