Most often, the older generations like to point fingers at the Millenials and younger generations for being attached to their technology, the reality is that parents and older adults aren’t any better! As adults spend more and more time on their phones, tablets, and laptops, what impact is that having on the mental health and development? This new study shows that parental screen time is more impactful than you might think.
Too Much Screen Time Causes Behavioral Problems in Toddlers and Kids
We know that too much time spent on social media and with technology can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health in adults, and that kids who spend hours glued to screens don’t fare any better. A new study from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital shows that the amount of time parents spend staring at their own screens has a devastating impact on the mental health and development of their children.
What the researchers found is that the more time parents spend on their phones and other devices (even TV), the less meaningful interactions they have with their kids. When a child’s time spent with their parent is interrupted by technology, the child feels frustrated and unimportant. This then causes the child to feel the need to act out in order to gain the lost attention back, most often in a negative way.
What The Study Warns
The study looked at 170 two-parent homes in the United States with children who were just over three years old. The parents were asked about their personal use of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and others: How they use them, when they use them, how long, with the research focusing primarily on how the usage interrupts family time, such as checking texts during dinner or during playtime.
Parents in the study were also then asked to recall how often their child whined, were hyperactive, were irritable or grumpy, or in general acted out or behaved badly over the last two months. After adjusting for stress, anxiety, income, education, and other factors relating to the parents, the study found that even a small amount of interruptions to parent-child engagement due to technology are associated with kids behavioural problems.
Though the researchers maintain that they cannot assume a direct correlation between children’s behaviour and their parents level of technology use, they do agree that there is certainly a relationship, particularly between a child and their mother.
Other Health Effects of Too Much Screen Time
It’s clear that spending too much time in the virtual world as opposed to the real world is having detrimental effects on the health and well-being of adults, teenagers, and children. Some other negative impacts of spending copious amounts of time on our devices are:
– Vision and eye health
– Mental health and depression
– Cardiovascular health and increased risk of diabetes
– Neck, back, and other musculo-skeletal problems due to poor posture
– Brain development and learning problems
– Attention deficit problems
– Sleep problems
Despite all the positive attributes to technology, it is clear that allowing it to consume your life is bad for the mental, physical, and emotional health of your entire family. The question then remains as to how to still reap the benefits of technology without letting it get in the way of a happy, healthy home. (2, 3)
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family from the Negative Effects of Technology
As mentioned already, technology isn’t all bad, but when it starts to take away from meaningful interactions with your children, something needs to change. There are many ways you can continue to enjoy technology without it taking over your family time
Limit screen time for everyone.
Many parents put cap on amount of time spent on the computer or in front of the TV for their kids, but what about themselves? Creating rules for everyone in the household, including yourselves, and sticking to them, makes sure that each day you are have uninterrupted quality time with your kids
No phones at the dinner table.
Dinner time is often one of the few times busy families have each day to spend together to chat, educate, and share stories about their day. Having phones, TV, or other forms of tech at the table leads to distraction and discourages important conversation.
Pick other activities instead of movies.
While family movie night is fun and can be a lovely way to spend a quiet evening in, the reality is that watching movies doesn’t promote conversation or interaction. Instead, why not replace family movie night with a games night? This not only provides more opportunities for parents and children to talk, but also helps build family traditions and memories that will last far longer than a film.
Get outside… and leave the phones at home!
Take time each weekend to get out and do something as a family, whether it be a hike, playing ball at the park, or going bowling or indoor mini-golf if the weather doesn’t cooperate and leave all forms of technology at home, or at least in the car. Without the option of checking texts, emails, or Instagram feeds, everyone is free to be fully present in the moment and enjoy each others company.
Put the phone on airplane without going anywhere.
If you find it extremely difficult to ignore your phone anytime you hear a “ping!”, set it to airplane or silent mode at least until the kids are off doing their homework or gone to bed.