Hey Dad, get off your :( :( Phone

Calling the iphone or a Samsung Galaxy a “phone” is silly.  It’s a toy, a computer, a calendar and a tool for all sorts of activities.  Oh, and you use it to talk with far-away people too.

For all their wonder, the constant use of smartphones in a family setting is acutely detrimental to child development.  Parents who are glued to their phones are cheating their kids out of learning vital communication and social skills.

Ignoring your kids isn’t simply crappy parenting, when you are engrossed in your phone while with the kids, you deprive them of speech acquisition, non-verbal communication skills and the learning of vital social skills.  Most of all, you’re showing them that your device is more important than they are.

Shoving the kids aside so you can fiddle with the device has REAL long term consequences.

Your child does not learn speech by simply hearing it; mounds of speech development research clearly show that children learn speech by talking  with  fellow humans.

Any moment you are with the kids either at home or on the go, and the device is the center of your attention, you are robbing your child of valuable learning.

Little boys and girls won’t learn how to talk with another person or how to behave around people unless they are involved in the conversation and social interactions that accompany speech.

Junior can’t lean social skills in a four-hour clinic the day before kindergarten starts, it takes hundreds of hours of you doing it correctly in their presence.  They need to pick up thousands, yes thousands, of social cues and non-verbal actions that make up human interaction.   This can only be done person-to-person, no phones allowed.

When you sit in silence, playing with the phone, or taking to everyone you know on it, you are literally robbing your child of the skills your parents taught you as a young child.

Every hour you have with your young children is far too precious to be squandered sending texts and updating your status.

The window for a child to establish a strong basis for communication and learning is very short, most child psychology experts say that the window for excellent teaching closes rapidly by the time a child is two to three years-old.  By the time a child is beginning to speak, they have already learned almost everything they will ever use when it comes to communication.  Speaking is the cherry on the top of the sundae when it comes to learning how to communicate.

A child who does not learn vital verbal and non-verbal skills from mom and dad will have a hard time at school and in interacting with other kids.  His or her reading will be delayed and his or her success, or failure, in the early years of school will set them on a path for a lifetime of success, or failure.

Having a brood of little kids to care for is hard work.  I have four of my own and caring for them is the most difficult long term task of my life.  But, guess what, my wife and I had four kids on purpose and we can’t bail on the hard parts of daily parenting  whenever we feel like it.

I see parents at the park, the store, at church, and anywhere else people go, blissfully ignoring their young children while they view hilarious videos, update their Facebook status etc., etc. etc.

Just this week, I observed a 3-4 year-old boy screaming in the shopping trying to get a father’s attention while he was smirking at witty comment on Twitter.

Parents are so busy.  Between work, sports, lessons and other family activities, many parents may only see their young ones for a few precious hours each day.

Make the commitment today to turn off your phone when you’re with your kids.  At a minimum, commit to put the device away between the time you arrive home in the evening and when the children are tucked in bed for the night.  There is almost nothing that is so important that it can’t wait until after bedtime.

When your children are teens, will you have taught them that ignoring family in favor of the phone is OK?  Or, will you have shown, by example, that family is more important than Facebook?

Ignoring your kids today gives them permission to completely ignore you when they have their own device(s)—nowadays at about age twelve.

Today’s young parents are the first ones who have commonplace use of smartphones.  Don’t be stupid about using the smartphone regarding your family.


 Of course, I think that a major part of useful parent-child interaction is done with books.  We’ve written much about the benefits of reading to your kids.  See the article here.