Raising a family is expensive and every parent knows the struggle of trying to balance the budget. We have to factor in health insurance, car payments, 401 K contributions, rent, daycare costs, and groceries. Typically, most families are strategic in how they spend their money and factor in depreciation and interest. Even the most financially savvy parents might be overlooking a hidden cost that affects their children.
You won’t find this cost itemized on a budget or in a stack of receipts. Unfortunately, we aren’t talking about the initial costs or monthly fees that money can buy. We often forget to factor in the expense of our Smartphones and devices on our children’s happiness and futures.
Whether a parent is taking their child to the doctor or playing at the park, we are digitally connected at high rates. Many parents are checking work emails, waiting for a call from the doctor, scrolling social media, or streaming the new season of Orange Is The New Black. These moments of distracted parenting are stealing precious moments away from our children.
Our reliance on our devices is starting to influence how we parent is indirectly affecting our children’s well being. Researchers are beginning to notice how a parent’s cell phone is costing our children dearly. Physicians at the Boston Medical Center were some of the first researchers to notice this phenomenon in their offices.
The doctors had begun to notice that parents were focusing on cellphones instead of interacting with their children. This prompted an anthropological study in “people watching” at fast food eateries. While families dined on french fries and burgers, the experts noticed that 73 percent of the parents used mobile devices during the meal and appeared to ignore their children in favor of the glow of the screen.
“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,” stated, author and psychologist, Catherine Steiner-Adair in an interview with NPR (National Public Radio).
This study cemented what experts and educators had been noticing in our daily lives, but it is disheartening when we consider that children need interactions with adults to learn and thrive. Even small infants, need the full attention of adults to form attachments and bond. If this process suffers interference, it can set up children for stunted brain development and a lifetime void of healthy relationships.
Babies, toddlers, and children learn from face-to-face interactions to build vocabularies, social skills, and how to handle emotions. Conversations and dialogue plays a vital role in a child’s mental capacities as they grow into functioning adults. There is also a wealth of research that shows a direct correlation between the amount of words a child hears during the formative years and their amount of success later in life.
Putting our devices above our child’s own needs can also cause emotional scars to develop. Children are keen observers and they are watching a parent’s every move. When we continuously interact with technology over our kids, they are receiving the message that they are not adequate. If children take this message to heart, our devices can set them up for bouts of depression and anxiety.
Obviously, parents don’t intentionally seek ways to harm children by using their cell phones. Understanding how our devices can impair our ability to interact with our family is the first step in curbing the negative side effects associated with a parent’s overuse of technology.
Listed below are three suggestions to help balance our electronics and be more intentional with our parenting:
Technology and Smartphones may come with an initial hefty price tag, but we need to be mindful that they don’t cost our children’s futures. Technology does play a role in our families, but we need to challenge ourselves to capitalize on everyday moments with our children. What is one thing you will do to cut the cost of technology on your family?
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