Phones At The Table, Not So Smart - Hope 103.2

Phones At The Table, Not So Smart

Many suspected it, and now it’s expert opinion: it’s not smart for parents to have smartphones at the dinner table.

By Clare BruceMonday 28 Sep 2015Hope MorningsParentingReading Time: 3 minutes

Many suspected it, and now it’s expert opinion: it’s not smart for parents to have smartphones at the dinner table.

Parenting writer Dr Justin Coulson told Hope 103.2 that kids and teens aren’t the only ones guilty of staring at their small screens too much.

He said about a third of parents are “digitally preoccupied” while eating the family meal, and it’s hurting their kids.

“Some children really are compelled to tap and swipe and stare at their screens, but they’re learning it from us as a general rule unfortunately,” he said.

“Researchers have done some observational studies and they’ve found that about a third of parents…are sitting in a restaurant or sitting at the dinner table at home and they’re swiping their screens rather than engaging with their kids.

“And the impact of this is significant.”

Distracted Parents Have More Harsh Words With Their Kids

Mother at table distracted by phone and computer

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TIME Magazine reported on a study from Boston Medical Centre, revealing that parents absorbed by their phone have more negative interactions with their children.

The reason? Their children play up as they feel like they have to compete for attention with their parents’ gadgets.

Dr Jenny Radesky, who conducted the study, sent undercover investigators into restaurants to watch how families behaved at dinner.

She said that the parents using smart phones throughout the entire meal had the most negative, harsh interactions with their children of everyone observed. Some were seen snapping at their kids in irritated tones or even kicking their child under the table.

Dr Radesky is now working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop healthy guidelines for smartphone use by parents.

Mealtime Is Important For Chatting And Connecting

Family eating out together

Children thrive on their parents’ attention, and especially up close and personal at the meal table, said Dr Justin Coulson.

“Family meals are such a protective factor for building resilience and self-esteem, and even building better relationships both in and out of the home,” he said.

Another expert, clinical associate professor of psychiatry Dr Gail Saltz at New York Presbyterian Hospital, told NBC News that for kids, quality time with parents at the dinner table is linked to many benefits.

They include a lower likelihood of falling into drug abuse or teen pregnancy, and a higher likelihood of getting good grades.

She said the benefits are lost if no communications happens during mealtime.

“Staring at your phone during a meal with your child is not a good thing,” she said.

Dr Wendy Sue Swanson, a parenting blogger at Mama Doc blog, agreed and said children learn by example.

“My concern is that if the device use becomes really excessive, then kids won’t get much practice with having conversations, reading social cues and responding sensitively.”

“We Have To Pick Up Our Game”: Dr Justin Coulson

Family using phones at breakfast table

Dr Coulson, who is a parent himself, said he has a policy of phones being put away in the house.

“This might sound a little bit hard core but I don’t see why there’s a need to have screens at the dinner table,” he said.

“This is a chance for us to switch off the TV, put the phones in the box by the door, and just focus on being together as a family, not just at home but especially when we’re going out to dinner as a family.

“We are so digitally preoccupied and there’s a yearning inside every one of us to connect with other people.

“We don’t tend to be comfortable with space and silence and so we go for the quickest, easiest way to fill it, and it’s our phones when it should be other people and relationships.”

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