Parents Might Be More Addicted to Their Phones Than Their Children

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Parents Might Be More Addicted to Their Phones Than Their Children

Parents are struggling to break free from their phone addiction / Photo by Roman Kosolapov via Shutterstock


Teens and children are usually reproached for their addiction their digital devices, but several pieces of research show that parents are also guilty of having the same obsession, if not even worse. There have been increasing reports of children complaining about how they have to fight for their parents' attention with their smartphones being their rivals.  

Surveys About Parents’ Phone Addiction

Recently, kindergarten children in Boston were asked to describe their ideal playground, Psychology Today says. The kids answered in agreement with each other, that they wanted a playground with a locker where their parents’ phones would be locked up so that they would actually play with them.

In another survey conducted, which involved around 6,000 parents and children who were eight to 13 years old, 52% of parents confessed that they spent much of their time on their phone. Out of the 52%, 28% of parents surveyed said they struggled to break free from their phone addiction even though they knew that it made them pay less attention to their children, Lifehack states. On the other hand, it was indicated that 54% of the children think that their parents are always stuck to their phones.

Additionally, Quartz says that in a recent American survey which was investigating teens’ social media habits, out of 1,000 participants, 33% of teens expressed that they wished that their parents would spend more time away from their devices.

The Counter-Revolution

Perhaps the most striking response of all to the parents ignoring their children because of their phones was that it was enough to push a seven-year-old German kid named Emil Rustige to start a movement with the slogan “Play with ME, not with your cell phones!” The demonstration happened on September 8 in Hamburg, Germany with 150 others rallying with him.

Rustige said when he was interviewed by the German press that he was inspired by the anti-facism protest he was part of in May. He told his parents that he wanted to hold a demonstration based on his stand and his parents helped him organize it. His father, Martin Rustige, showed his support by having the event registered with the police. His parents were amazed when they found that 400 people on Facebook said that they also wanted to participate. Emil’s father said in an interview with Spiegel Online that his son was reprimanding him of the moments when they would be together and is attempting to communicate with him but his mind was concentrating on something else.

Ylvi Schmitt, a six-year-old who had joined the demonstration declared, “I don’t like it that my dad is always playing around with his phone.” Schmitt’s father said that he realized that he had to take a good look at himself.


The increased of interference with technology resulted to an increased in behavioral issues / Photo by Kekyalyaynen via Shutterstock


The Effects of Technology on Parent-Child Relations

A study published in the journal Pedriatic Research revealed that parents observed that the increased interference of technology with their social interaction also resulted in increased behavioral issues. The authors of the paper, Jenny Radesky and Brandon McDaniel called the phenomenon “technoference”. The researchers were uncertain about why this occurence happens. They theorize that problems with their child may have prompted them to use their devices as a means of escape or if the parents who were addicted to their devices caused their children to have behavioral problems. The study involved the participation of 183 parent-child tandems.

Radesky and McDaniel note in their paper, “Parents who frequently use mobile devices during parent-child activities showed lower understanding of their child’s mental states and intentions.” Parents who excessively used their devices had children who turned more hyperactive, became more frustrated and displayed more temper tantrum.

In contrast, when children were exhibiting problematic behaviors, parents relied on technology to relieve them of their stress. This causes a vicious cycle to form wherein the child shows problematic behaviors from the lack of their parents’ attention, making their parents use their devices as a distraction which in turn triggers children to exhibit more bad behavior.

The authors also wrote in their study that while technology helped parents relax, they are also simultaneously “potentially displacing opportunities for parent-child connection important to child health and development.”

Another risk that is posed if parents continue to stay glued to their mobile devices is that their children may be more prone to having accidents while they are not watching. Psychologist Katzer says that not reacting to child’s eye contact may also raise their stress levels.

Katzer explained to Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk, a public broadcaster, “If parents do not respond to their children’s eye contact, there are research studies that show that children react with physical and hormonal stress.”

As a way to call the attention of parents who neglect their children because of their high use of technology, the Youth and Family Office in Bavaria, Germany launched the poster campaign “Talk to your child!” encouraging parents to spend more time away from phones, make eye-contact with their children and be more attentive in communicating with them.



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