The last thing you want for your child to experience is feeling unimportant, insignificant or even boring when compared to the phone in your hands.
How much attention are you giving your children? Do you ask your son about his day when he returns from school or do you acknowledge the drawing your daughter made after you pick her up from daycare? One of the major things that are distracting parents from giving their children the attention they deserve is their mobile phones, so much that parents sometimes have to be reminded to put their phones down and give their child some acknowledgment and affection. And that’s sort of what happened at a daycare facility in Hockley, Texas where the staff members had a strong message to parents, and it started off by saying, “You are picking up your child! GET OFF YOUR PHONE!!!!’
It matters to a child when their parent shows keen interest to all the stories they are eager to tell about their day. But if the parent is too preoccupied with their phone or something else, it can dampen their spirit. The message, taped to the center’s window, almost seemed like an effort to remind them of what should matter to them and not let unimportant things distract them from acknowledging their child. The sign also said, “Your child is happy to see you! Are you not happy to see your child??” While it may have been a slightly unexpected shocker, it would have certainly made parents stop and think for a few moments.
That day when Juliana Farris Mazurkewicz came to pick her daughter up from daycare, it definitely made her stop and think. She told CNN, "I was a bit shocked, but I didn't feel any negativity towards the daycare. I know that the staff has the best interests of the children in mind, even to the point where they are willing to offend the parent." Mazurkewicz took a picture of the message and shared it on social media, which ended up being shared on Facebook more than 2 million times. While some felt it was inappropriate, others saw the important underlying message.
For a moment, put yourself in your child’s shoes and imagine if he sees that he has to compete with your phone to get your attention. You may feel content about picking up your child from school or daycare but showing the excitement can make a huge difference to their day. In a study conducted by AVG Technologies, the findings indicated that more than half of the children who were part of the study felt that their parents were using their devices too often. What is even more worrisome is that 36 percent of the children found their parents being distracted by their phones while having conversations with them. And this made 32 percent of them admit that they felt unimportant because of this.
Another thing that parents need to keep in mind is that children are most likely to pick up habits and cues from their parents. They often imbibe what they observe in adults, making it all the more important for parents to set good role models for them especially with how they use technology. Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist at AVG Technologies, said, “Children take their cues from us for everything else, so it is only natural that they should do the same with device use. It can be hard to step away from your device at home; but with a quarter of parents telling us that they wished their child used their device less (25 percent), they need to lead by example and consider how their behavior might be making their child feel.”
The last thing you want your child to feel is that he or she is not as important as the notification you just got or the message that just arrived in your inbox. Your children crave for your affection, and when you divide your attention between your phone and your children, it makes them feel unimportant. Catherine Steiner-Adair, psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, said, "We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don't matter, they're not interesting to us, they're not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them."
What’s worse is that your child might start doubting themselves, thinking they are not interesting enough or worthy of your attention. Steiner-Adair had interviewed about a thousand children aged between 4 and 18 for her book. And one girl even responded saying, "I feel like I'm just boring. I'm boring my dad because he will take any text, any call, anytime — even on the ski lift!"
The last thing you want is for your children to doubt themselves or question your love for them. Start reflecting on your mobile usage and think about whether you are picking up your phone a little too much when your children are around. Of course, an urgent call or important text message is often unavoidable. But when your children are around you, be with them wholeheartedly. Be responsive to what they say and don’t allow insignificant things to distract you. What matters is making your child feel important, because that’s exactly what they are.