As society’s awareness about Smartphones, tablets and social media grows, we are able to understand the influences and negative health effects that can result from our children’s fascination with social media, gaming and their favorite devices. Experts preach about the dangers of cyberbullying, online predators and oversharing as our children lose the art of face-to-face communication. In response to these threats, parents often resort to tracking or restricting children’s cell phones to limit the frightening complications.

However, there is new research pointing to how a parent’s cell phone use can lead to the development of narcissism and other damaging outcomes in their children—especially young toddlers and kids. It is important for parents to take a step back and reflect on how our personal devices can harm our children.

The impact of a parent’s technology on children

A fascination with our devices has caused a ripple effect in our child rearing and researchers took notice that this usage was affecting their self-esteem. Inspired by startling observations in the waiting room, researchers at the Boston Medical Center, decided to conduct an anthropological study on this topic.

The experts wanted to witness first hand how a parent’s use of mobile devices impaired their interactions with children. This led to the observation of families eating dinner at fast food chains which uncovered nearly 73% of the parents observed were actively engaged with their phone during the meal and visually appeared to ignore their children.

Catherine Steiner-Adair, a leading author and psychologist, nailed this problem when she 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.”

This is disheartening, because children learn by interacting with face-to-face communication. Young children in particular need to be listening, watching facial expressions, and learning new words to build their language skills and vocabularies. These experiences are vital, because research has linked the amount of words children hear as toddlers to their ultimate success or failure as adults.

Aside from the obvious lack of language skills, our actions and disconnect are silently sending the message to our offspring that they fall short and don’t deserve our full attention. This inadequacy can manifest in anxiety, depression and narcissism in our children as they feel they need to be perfect or demand to be the center of our attention.

4 tips to be more intentional with our children

Parents ultimately want their children to have things better than they did growing up. Unfortunately, technology like Smartphones that are supposed to bring us closer together also has the potential to tear apart our family bonds. Awareness is the first line of defense, but putting our children ahead of our Smartphones involves balance and calculated choices. Here are some ways to power down our cell phones to benefit our children:

Create a designated amount of time to use technology or social media.
Let’s face it, social media and other guilty pleasures like reading advice columns or playing a game is a great way to relieve stress. By allocating time to catch up on the news, we will be able to power down and focus on our children the rest of the day.

Limit phones and devices in the home.
Many families elect to keep technology away from family meals and activities to avoid distractions.

Look for ways to show children they are a valued family member.
Take advantage of playtime, carpools, baths and hugs to listen to what they have to say. Focusing our attention on the kids can make them feel validated without fueling the need to be the center of attention.

Start early and model healthy relationships with technology.
Our children are watching us and learning from our actions. Make sure they have the necessary skills to prevent technology from harming their future health and happiness.

Adults are highly connected with technology and rely on their cell phones to check social media, scroll through work assignments, pay bills and stay up-to-date on schedules. We need to challenge ourselves to put down the Smartphones to save our young children by being present in their daily lives. There is a time and place for technology, but we need to remember that our children are only young once.

Click here to see Rose’s tips for healthy and happy relationships

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