Many parents worry about the impact of screen time on our children’s mental health. (For one example see Just So You Know.) However, you may also need to think about the impact of your screen time on your children’s mental health. In fact, a study completed by Robin Nabi (UC Santa Barbara) surveyed 40 parents of children between 5-years-old and 12-years-old. The surveys asked about and gathered a variety of information including:
- Their children’s level of emotional awareness and control
- Their children’s level of concern for others.
- Their children’s use of television, computers, game consoles, tablets, and smartphones.
- How often their children engaged in activities like reading, listening to music, outdoor play, and indoor play.
- How much time the parents spend on digital devices in the presence of their children.
- How often the parent-initiated conversation with their children while engaged in various types of media activities.
- How often the parents-initiated conversation with their children while engaged in various types of nonmedia activities.
Ironically, the ONLY thing associated with lower child emotional intelligence was parental use of cell phones in the presence of their children.
Children thrive on parental responsiveness. They grow through parental responsiveness. When a parent is focused on their cellphone, they become less responsive to their children. In fact, “parental phone use is associated with ‘still face,’ an expressionless appearance” that creates great emotional chaos in children. If you have not seen the “still face experiment,” take a moment to watch it in this short clip. You will see how it throws a child into a state of insecurity and results in them experiencing emotional chaos.
Your older children may not react in the same way as the infant in the video. However, a lack of responsiveness toward your older child or teen communicates a lack of value, raises a fear of insecurity, creates distance between you and them, and hinders your effectiveness as a parent. It will also stunt the development of emotional intelligence in their lives. All that being said, when your child approaches you put down the cellphone. Look them in the eye. Listen carefully. Converse with them. Connect with them. Your child will grow more emotionally intelligent and more confident in their self-worth. And your relationship with your child will grow more intimate. Don’t phub your child. Put down the cellphone and fully respond to your child instead.