January 8th, 2019
As I think back to when my kids were little, I’m so thankful that there weren’t mobile phones. I know it would have been really hard for me to avoid picking my phone up; taking care of young children was tedious at times, and texting or scrolling would have been a great way to entertain myself.
But does a parent’s mobile-device use even matter? Apparently, it can. An article in the New York Times quotes data that might make parents of babies and toddlers want to rethink their phone habits:
Paul Greenberg, New York Times, 12/31/18
A recent study found that children between 7 months and 24 months old experienced higher levels of distress and were less likely to investigate their surroundings when their parents were on their mobile devices.
While it is just one study, it shows that parental phone use can impact babies’ and toddlers’ development. That deep sense of security children need begins at birth and has been long been described as essential “attachment.” And given that “children take visual cues of attachment from their parents’ gaze,” parents need to be “gazing” or looking at and interacting with their babies rather than having their eyes on their phones.
We can’t go back in time. Phones will remain ever-present until the next newer technology comes along. Plus, it’s important for parents to be positive and loving so an occasional text distraction amidst the caregiving might contribute to a mom’s or dad’s happiness and demeanor – which also makes a difference for little ones. But for parents, and really everybody, a great resolution for 2019 could include choosing face-to-face time over screen time whenever possible. Encouraging your child’s foundational emotional security sets them up for later success in reading and in school: or, as the NYT puts it, “every moment you look at your infant instead of your phone is an investment in the future.”