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Be a good parent, put down your phone

By Sola Ogundipe
~vanguard Nigeria. Sunday, July 22, 2018.

The world is breeding a generation of tech-distracted parents. Although fathers and mothers generally agree that technology has radically transformed the way they engage social media around their children; the focus is often on how to get children off their mobile phones to do other things.

But the parents are not particularly setting a good example for the children in this respect, are they?

These days, the average parent spends far too much time on the phone-so hooked to smartphones, Ipads internet tablets and other digital devices, they may be causing tension, conflict and negative interaction with the children.

No doubt technology has transformed the way parents use digital media around their children and so many daddies and mummies are continually having the sensation of doing more than one thing at a time and being in more than one place at a time while parenting. It's all about keeping up socially.

But overuse and misuse of mobile phones by parents is having a negative effect on the children. The excessive phone-checking habit of many parents is worrisome to say the least.

There is now growing knowledge that parents that stay permanently glued to their mobile phone may be damaging their relationships with their children.

A mother can be in the kitchen at home trying to cook dinner while attending to the children, and at the same time be "virtually" at work in the office on WhatsApp or Twitter. This kind of multitasking is usually an internal struggle.

According to a recent survey of secondary school pupils in the UK, the impact that phone-checking parents, is significant. The poll was carried out by Digital Awareness UK and the Headmasters and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC).

Children that did ask their parents to stop checking social media or responding to email during family time reported the pleas fell on deaf ears. Nearly half (46 percent) said their parents just ignored them while 44 percent said they were left feeling upset at having to ask.

Parents themselves seem to be suffering confusion over their usage. Only 10 percent admitted their phone use was an issue for their kids but 43 percent reckoned they spent too much time online.

Experts recommend a household ban on technology during dinner times.

A separate poll found that families enjoy just 36 minutes of quality time a day, but stare at screens for almost four times longer. On average, families spend just three weeks of real quality time together each year-and just 36 minutes on the average week day.

In comparison, adults spend almost four times as long-one hour and 55 minutes per day- watching TV or playing on their gadgets. Children are also staring at a screen of some kind for around two hours and 22 minutes a day, the survey found.

No thanks to this trend, parenting is fast becoming increasingly difficult for devoting sufficient attention to the children. A number of parents have no idea how intrusive and overbearing their relationships with their mobile phones have become until they evaluate it.

Parents are struggling to balance family time and at the same time desiring technology-based expectation. One common argument is that mobile technology provides escape from the boredom and stress of parenting and home life demands.

On the average, the typical parents checks their phones at least once every 10 minutes and may use the device for up to or more three hours overall every day.

According to research published in the Journal of Child Development, highly tech-distracted parents have children with higher rates of acting out through misbehaviours, attention seeking and aggression. Children of tech-distracted parents show higher rates of depression and anxiety.

Experts say it's much harder to toggle between mum or dad brain and other aspects and some parents agreed that their emotional responses to children depended on what they read on their phone.

For some parents, their emotional response to whatever they are reading on their mobile often influences how they respond to their children.

Parents describe attention-seeking behaviour from children when they were heavily attentive to their mobile devices, which prompted negative interactions such as snapping at them.

According to one mother, after long days with her children, plugging into the outside world is a reminder that she has a life beyond this.

The truth, however, is that even children often need to be independent.

"It's also important for parents to feel relevant at work and other parts of their lives. However, we are seeing parents overloaded and exhausted from being pulled in so many different directions."

Technology provides an escape for some caregivers.

Pattern of use of mobile devices show it is associated with fewer verbal and non-verbal interactions with children.

According to an expert, when parents only use their phones only for important calls-no texting, no social media-they tend to give attention to their children instead their technology.

Children could feel neglected when daddy or mummy is always on the phone, computer and other technological devices. Technology often intrudes into the parent-child relationship. Not just that, higher levels of engagement with these devices are associated with greater relationship conflict and lower relationship satisfaction.

It may not be a surprise that technology can be a source of dispute and even conflict. Attending to a phone instead of the child could feel like rejecting the child even when it isn't actually so.

So, if you would like to be conscious about your time and use tech as a tool in your life instead of having it hijack you, check out the tips below:

*It all starts with awareness. See if you can do the 48-hour no-phone weekend challenge and pay attention to how you feel and behave differently.

*Turn your phone to black-and-white, so those flashy colours aren't engaging your eyes.

*Turn off notifications. Who can resist looking when you hear a ping?

*Practice docking the phone. Pick hours that you will absolutely not touch your phone. Start with the easy times (like while eating dinner or tucking kids in) and lengthen the time and frequency gradually.

*Don't take your phone with you. You can actually go to the park or the mall and not have your phone on you. If an emergency happens, people will find you.

*Manage your home screen so you only see functional apps like maps or the weather. Move games and social media to your second (or third) screens.

*Decide what times of day you will be on social media. Get in and get out. Use a time-tracking device like Moments to measure objectively how long you are on each of your apps. Some allow you to preset the amount of time you wish to be on the app before kicking you off and blocking you out.

*Remind yourself what is important to you. We all have the same 24 hours - don't let those hours be spent in a mindless default mode. Instead, post pictures and notes around your house so you are reminded to make a more conscious choice of how you spend this one precious day.

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