STUDENT VIEWPOINT: Vigilance scarce as parents distracted by electronics

By Katherine Speer

In order to improve the health and welfare of children, parents throughout the United States should restrict their personal technology use and reduce electronic distractions in favor of being completely present with their children.
Unfortunately, numerous parents assume their physical presence with a child, regardless of any distraction by technology, will keep the child healthy. However, “children were found to be more likely to engage in highly dangerous behaviors – such as throwing sand, walking up a slide, sliding down head first and jumping off moving swings – when their caregivers are distracted,” reports Martina Nicholson, a NetCare nonprofit associate.
A recent survey of United States parents stated those “who reported problematic or addictive use of technology . . . also reported that their relationships with their children were being interrupted. The interruptions led to kids acting out, turning inward with feelings, or exhibiting aggressive behavior or crying spells.”
This demonstrates how parents’ addictions to technology can have extensive interruptions on the relationship between parent and child, leading to problematic effects. Clearly, parents who are addicted to screens and favor technology over quality time with children expose the children to inadequate parenting and lack of necessary attention. Furthermore, research published in the Journal of Child Development reported findings that “parents who were highly tech-distracted had children with higher rates of depression and anxiety.”
This makes it evident that distracted parenting not only causes children to misbehave for attention, but it can additionally drive children to a state of mental instability and inflict possibly life threatening mental conditions such as depression. This means that the more time parents spend on their electronic devices rather than actively spending time with children, the more each child’s welfare will be threatened.
In addition, “U.S. pediatrician, Dr Jenny Radesky, observed 55 groups of parents and young children eating at fast food restaurants and recorded how often the adults used their smartphones during the meal . . . of the 40 caregivers who took out their phones during the meal, about 40% spent the entirety of the meal swiping, texting, and paying very little attention to the children in their care.”
This study clearly illustrates many parents choose to absorb themselves in electronic devices rather than pay attention to children – even during mealtimes, which are traditionally observed as the most important instance in which it is necessary to build relationships between parents and children.
According to another similar study, “cell phone use interferes with healthy parenting: children ‘learn by watching us how to have a conversation, how to read other people’s facial expressions. And if that’s not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones.’”
This makes it blatant that overuse of technology on behalf of parents can have negative effects on the development of their children.
Even young children are realizing the negative effects of technology on their relationships with parents. A second grader at a Louisiana elementary school stated in a writing piece, “I don’t like the phone because my parents are on their phone always every day . . . a phone is sometimes a really bad habit. I hate my mom’s phone and I wish she never had one.”
This provides a clear insight into how strongly children resent their parents’ overuse of technology. Unless parents take the initiative immediately, they will only realize the negative effects of parental electronic use once their window of opportunity has passed.
Each parent only raises a child for several years, but the effects of childhood last throughout the entirety of every child’s lifetime. It is important that we prevent the numerous negative effects of technological distraction from remaining constant throughout the life of children.
Become vigilant – prevent imminent threats to the health of children. Become committed – prevent online relationships from overshadowing commitment to the welfare of children. Become caring – nothing is a higher priority than children. Above all else, become present. We owe it to our children to restrict screen use and discard electronic distractions. After all, technology can wait.
Clarkston Junior High 8th grade Honors ELA students wrote columns focused on increasing activism. The top six were submitted to The Clarkston News.

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