Attached to your phone more than to your child?
A recent report from the Child Accident Prevention Trust showed that nearly a quarter of parents have been engrossed in their phones when their children had suffered an accident or had a near miss. Dr Rahul Chodarhi, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told the Daily Telegraph that parents needed to curb their smartphone addiction.
But apart from the immediate concern for a child’s physical safety do we also need to think about other possible consequences? For example if you are a parent do you sit on the park bench browsing your smartphone and wave absentmindedly at your youngster when they call out to you? Or perhaps you walk down the road pushing your child’s pram whilst playing games on your phone? Or what about talking to your friends on your mobile when you are feeding your child?
Maybe you don’t but from empirical evidence there are a lot of parents who do. Just observe as you walk down any street or in any shopping mall. And what is the common theme of those examples? In all situations the parent/carer is not engaging with their child.
The therapist, John Bowlby, in the 1950s observed that children can suffer intense distress when separated from their mothers and that the lack of attachment the child feels can influence future relationships that that child, then teenager and finally adult can have. So could we, because we are focusing on our smart phones, be setting our children up for future relationship issues? The answer is that, at the moment, we just don’t know - but maybe.
The evidence shows that children who are supportively and appropriately attached to their mothers, and have positive relationship role models, are better adjusted to live happier lives in adulthood. As children we learn from our parents. So are we now teaching them that phones should be prioritised over people?
If you feel that you need to have more control over your mobile phone use what can you do? And are you actually addicted? Well, if the first thing you do in the morning is to look at your phone and also the last thing at night you may well be. Do you check your phone when working on an important project? Has your child been injured while you’ve been on your mobile?
So what to do? If you are really worried, or cannot implement the suggestions below, perhaps you should work with a counsellor. But first let’s see how good your ability to control your phone use is. The first task is not to look at your phone at the start of the day. Get washed, dressed and have something to eat before you turn your phone on. Initially this might make you anxious but if this anxiety hasn’t gone away after a week perhaps you do need to work with a therapist.
Secondly, decide on some phone free times during the day and certainly a complete ban any time you are driving. And finally, aim to talk to your friends and/or family face to face more. Sending texts are an easy way to avoid. It is a sort of third party communication where you don’t have to see the other person’s expressions. Humans need quality and personal interactions. A text just doesn’t fill that need.
Mobile phones are a very useful tool for our busy lives. They can improve the quality of our lives too. But like any tool they should be under our control. If you feel that it is the other way around then perhaps you need to do something about it - for your sake and your children’s.
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About Owen Redahan
Owen works with individuals and couples. He focuses mainly on issues around self-esteem, relationships, sexual addiction and work problems using CBT and person-focused therapies. He has a diploma in Counselling and is a member of ATSAC (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity). He is based in Canary Wharf, London E14.