Drop the phone: Distracted parenting can hurt kids now, in the long run

A woman checks her cell phone at a coffee shop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As central Indiana families head outside to enjoy the warm weather this spring, doctors are warning about a increasingly common phenomenon called distracted parenting. It happens when cell phones, tablets or even books get in the way of keeping your child safe.

Research has shown that technology distractions at home can lead to anxiety for children, and doctors say preventable injuries are the leading cause of death among children. A study from Translational Psychiatry found babies need to have a mom and dad’s reliable and consistent attention in order to form proper emotional processes. If the phone is in your hand all the time, the baby won’t learn healthy reward patterns.

Other studies have shown that such poor development of the pleasure system could contribute to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the effects of distracted parenting on caregivers. Participants talked about the struggle between multitasking between mobile technology use, work and children. According to Dr. Joseph O’Neil from Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, being distracted even for a second can lead to injuries.

“Especially when children are in the water, be at one arm’s length away, so if the child can’t swim they are protected by the parent,” O’Neil explained. “So I encourage parents, like, during the summer time, get out there with their kids, put away the cell phone, put it on message mode and just go ahead and be there.”

Experts say to set boundaries and make time to be unplugged. Track your screen time and maybe even set a filter or a block so you aren’t distracted at home. Eliminating or limiting technology that causes stress will also cut down on distracted parenting.

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