Look closely at the picture at the top of this article. Likely, it brings up a couple of different emotions. Perhaps, it makes you angry. Or, perhaps, it seems dangerous. But, if you’re a parent to a young child, chances are, the scenario that is playing out in the image seems oddly familiar. Like many of us, you, too, probably spend too much time in front of a screen and not enough time interacting with your little ones.

Sad, but true, right?

Now, we’re not here to shame you. It’s something that is happening to the most well-intentioned parents out there. As a matter of fact, it’s especially happening to the moms, dads, and caregivers who are attempting to spend more time with their little ones by taking on a more remote role at work, or cutting out extraneous social time by contributing to group texts. But, just because smartphones can streamline daily communication, doesn’t mean their near-constant ‘ringings’ and ‘dingings’ don’t distract.

Unfortunately, these “distractions” might seem somewhat trivial in the moments after you swipe that screen, but, according to doctors, making this a routine can be terrible for your children’s health.

In a new report published in JAMA entitled How to Consider Screen Time Limits…for Parentsresearchers Jenny Radesky, MD, and Megan A. Moreno, MD, MSeD, MPH, urge parents to set parameters for themselves when it comes to their devices.

Why do you think these two doctors are singing this smartphone battle cry?

If you’re stumped, it’s actually for some pretty obvious reasons. You see, research has found that children who are talked to less, answered less, and otherwise treated like pests may exhibit “worse child behavior.” This can, of course, lead to “more parenting stress.”

Yep, these results are definitely not surprising!

In addition to children feeling ignored, the doctors also say that the physical barrier that is constructed between a parent and a child when a smartphone is being used can be a particularly pervasive one. Here’s how the researchers explain it:

When screen media such as television and smartphones interrupt social interactions, it is harder to read your children’s behavior and thinking. Parents get more focused on the virtual interaction compared with the people in their physical space, which makes it hard to share a common perspective with those around us. Even when a smartphone is on the table, adults delve into less rich conversations and feel less empathy for other people.

Makes sense, folks!

Now, you didn’t think that we would just leave you hanging like that, right? Don’t worry–this isn’t going to end in a guilt trip, it’s going to end with some very smart tips, straight from the doctors themselves. Here are some ways you can improve your relationship with your smartphone AND your kids:

  • Demonstrate proper smartphone usage (to your kiddos)
  • Take time to unplug and single-task
  • Prioritize quality time with your children
  • Resist the urge to document everything

Let’s all make the effort to disconnect more. Our children deserve it!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on all things smartphones. Do you think you use or phone too much? If so, have you noticed that it has affected your relationship with your children? Do you have any advice for those who may be struggling to cut down on their online time?