By Ashley Maturo.
As you begin to read this post, think about the device you are using.
Are you accessing our website from a computer? A tablet? A smartphone?
It’s no secret that technology has become an important part of society and provides us with many benefits. It has made keeping in contact with others, staying organized and accessing information (such as this blog) faster, easier and more convenient than ever before.
That said, there also may be some downsides to our daily access to technology. One of the most recently observed is Technoference.
Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with someone when suddenly, without warning, they shift their attention away from you to check their phone? This is a common occurrence. You may even be guilty of doing this yourself.
And it makes sense. Beyond phone calls and text messages, our phones hold email, social media, banking, news, weather, GPS; the list goes on. Checking our phones has become a big part of our days. Some people even feel anxious if they have to go too long without their phones.
This is Technoference.
Technoference refers to the interference of technology in our everyday lives and the effect it has on our work productivity, personal relationships, well-being – and parenting.
Considering the major role technology plays in many of our lives, parents may find it difficult to comprehend the impact that technoference is having on their relationships with their child.
Has there ever been a time when your child was trying to get your attention but you were on your phone? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. Studies say the majority of parents admit that technoference regularly interferes with parent-child time such as bedtime, meals and family activities.
And parent-child relationships are not the only relationships that can suffer! Too much technoference in your romantic relationship can make you or your partner feel neglected and unimportant. It is crucial to set technology boundaries and find a balance that works for both of you.
Remember: Distraction leads to dissatisfaction.
Devices, especially smartphones and videogames, are good at absorbing our attention and maintaining it. More focus on our screens means less focus on our children.
If a child feels neglected by his caregiver, it can result in some concerning internalizing and externalizing behaviors. A study done by researchers from Illinois State University and the University of Michigan Medical School revealed that, although it is not the only cause, behavioral problems in children can be linked to technological distractions.
Parents can’t necessarily predict if their child is going to experience behavioral problems such anxiety, depression or hyperactivity, but there is no harm in limiting the use of technology around children as a preventative measure.
One mom of a challenging three year old told us that when she decided to put her phone away during the more stressful times of day, her daughter’s behavior dramatically improved. Mom thought she was only turning away for moments at a time but somehow she was able to be more calm, mindful and present without those little dings interrupting her connection with her daughter.
Many of of us rely on technology for work and for basic functions of daily life.
So, what are some good ways to avoid the negative impact of technoference in a world filled with technology?
You may think you’re someone who is not controlled by technology. Maybe you’re right. But we challenge you to spend one week tracking the time you spend in front of screens – watching television, scrolling through social media, texting, reading blogs, playing videogames, etc. You may be surprised how much of your week is spent looking at a screen; and noticing how often you check your devices and the times of day when you do can help you minimize screen time in the future.
Every day, try to spend 20 minutes of uninterrupted time with your child – without any screens. Turn off the TV, close the laptop, leave your phone in another room and allow your child to consume your next 20 minutes. Do something your child enjoys (without screens) and be completely present to him. This consistent and reliable one-on-one time is one of the best things you can do for your child. It fills her need for attention before she starts begging for it or misbehaving – which is often a foolproof way of getting your attention. This tech-free, one-on-one time makes him feel valued. And it helps build the strong relationship you both desire.
For many of us, devices are a necessary part of daily life. But, make sure technology doesn’t run your life. Set boundaries for yourself. Choose times of the day when you will check your phone and limit that time around your children. You can also set physical boundaries in your home, by making certain areas tech-free. For instance, a good rule is no devices at the dinner table or in bedrooms.
Technology offers us and our children amazing learning opportunities and fun downtime. As parents you do a lot for your children and deserve time for yourselves. At the same time, it’s vital to find balance and observe healthy boundaries, so your use of technology doesn’t begin to affect your most important relationships and the well-being of your child.
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