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Parents Playing With Their Phones Have Less Patience for Their Kids

Kids compete with Candy Crush and texting for a parental attention

smithsonian.com

Kids aren't the only ones who can get cranky when pulled away from a fun activity. According to a new study, parents who are playing a game, texting or checking email on smart phones are more likely to have negative interactions with their children, Time writes, to the point that children feel "like they are competing for attention with their parents' gadgets."

In the new study, researchers recruited "undercover investigators" to secretly observe the interactions between adults and children who visited a fastfood restaurant. They recorded 55 cases of an adult-child visitors to the restaurant. They took notes on how the adult interacted with his or her child (or children), and whether or not the adult had a cell phone on hand. Time: 

The data provided an unvarnished look at how absorbed many parents were by their devices. One child reached over in an attempt to lift his mother’s face while she looked down at a tablet, but to no avail. Another mother kicked her child under the table in response to the child’s various attempts to get her attention while she looked at her phone. A father responded in curt and irritated tones to his children’s escalating efforts to tear him away from his device.

Those parents or adults who used their phone throughout the duration of the meal, the researchers also found, tended to have the most negative interactions with their children, or even have no interactions at all. Under these circumstances, the researchers warn, kids might come to assume that their parents' phones take priority over them. As the researchers told Time, "These data are a wake-up call for we parents in that we really need to think about how these enticing devices not only distract us but potentially change who we are as parents."

The researchers hope to add guidelines about cell phone usage in the presence of young children to the American Academy of Pediatrics stance about media usage, which currently deals predominantly with television. As the Academy states, "Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens."

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