It’s difficult for most of us to imagine life without our cell/smart phone. Our desire to have constant access to news, photos, music, friends, and relatives, as well as games and other entertainment, has resulted in the cell phone becoming an ever-present attachment. Though there is a tendency to deny or laugh it off, the reality is that many of us are addicted to our phones.
Webster defines an addiction as a “strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly; a chronic compulsive, physiological, or psychological habit-forming behavior, or activity.” According to research from Dscout, a market research platform, people tap/click/swipe their phone an average of 2,617 times per day with some users doubling that number. In terms of hours spent, two to four hours daily is not unusual. Cell phones can absolutely be addictive and many individuals, young and old, currently qualify as addicts.
Of major concern is the degree to which cell phone use impacts (and intrudes on) the relationship between parents and their children. Even incredibly young children are aware of the “ever present” device. Parental cell phone attachment may send a confusing message to young children. It can almost seem as though the phone is a personal friend - one that is hard to live without. When misplaced, it's all hands-on-deck until the golden nugget is found!
To compare how cell phone addiction correlates to other addictions, read each sentence below 3 times. Each time the sentence is read insert a different noun from the following list into the blank space: cigarette(s), drink, cell phone. Give thoughtful consideration to how your child may feel when observing the message expressed in each sentence. As needed, precede each noun with one of the following: his/her or a.
can be seen with ___________in hand many times throughout each day.
becomes upset/agitated when unable to locate _____________.
becomes defensive, even angry, if someone suggests that __________ regularly intrude(s) on other activities.
becomes upset/agitated when having to put down ___________ due to an interruption.
exhibits a mood change when not having timely access to __________.
becomes upset/agitated if the someone touches/moves _____________.
*** plays games on his/her cell phone daily, sometimes for long periods of time. ***
Parents who are addicted to their cell phones may fail to realize that not only are they setting a poor example for their child(ren) but are also creating a strained parent/child relationship. Multi-tasking between daily work and family commitments has become so commonplace for parents that the thought of their actions having an unfavorable effect on their child(ren) does not cross their minds. However, one need only to observe parents in restaurants, waiting rooms, at youth sports activities, or sitting at traffic lights to see the degree to which cell phones impact daily life.
When children have to compete with a cell phone, verbal and non-verbal interaction with their parents may decrease. Children who have been taught not to interrupt their parents when on the phone may respect their parents’ wishes but, over time, feel increasingly alienated and isolated, choosing not to confide in or consult with their parent(s) when problems arise. Their silence may actually be indicative of a deeper issue.
All children deserve as normal a childhood as possible. They are in the process of trying to make sense of the world and need their parents to actively assist them. Clearly an important tool, teaching proper cell phone use and etiquette should be viewed by parents as an essential child-rearing responsibility, with parent modeling the most critical component. If you think your children do not notice your behavior, you are wrong. As the old saying goes, children may not listen to everything their parents say but they are watching everything they do.
© Sharon Knapp Lamberth, April 2022