Parents' Cell Phone Time Cutting Into Family Time

San Diego-based psychologist Dr. George Pratt says spending too much time on a cell phone could have negative effects on a parent's relationship with a child

Parents may be spending too much time on their cell phones and the digital distraction could easily be cutting into family time and impacting a parent’s relationship with his or her child, according to one San Diego-based psychologist.

Though often times it is parents telling kids to get off their cell phones, Dr. George Pratt said it’s also adults who need to set their phone aside from time to time – especially when they’re out with their family, playing at the park or enjoying dinner.

Pratt says putting down the cell phone and interacting with a child face-to-face is a way for parents to show kids how important they are amid a world filled with technological distractions.

“[This shows a child] ‘You’re important enough that I’d rather not be checking business or other social contacts. I want to be interested in you. I am interested in you.’ They have to feel important, and that will help them the rest of their lives,” Pratt explained.

The local psychologist said parents must remember that they are role models to children. That means getting involved and showing interest, even when kids are busy playing at the park or doing other activities.

“Kids learned by role modeling, so if you want them to pay attention to you later in life, pay more attention to them now by putting down your phone,” he added.

But in today’s tech-driven world, this is easier said than done.

Many local parents admitted that smartphones can be a very tempting way to spend their time, especially if they have more than one phone. Plus, that phone can do so much, parents feel like they must be on it more often than not.

“We don’t socialize as much now,” observed one parent.

At a local park Wednesday, kids ran around the playground while many parents sat on the sidelines, glued to their cell phones. Some were sending text messages, while others checked their email, took business phone calls or listened to music.

“You have to be connected to technology and things are more important for work,” said one parent who had two cell phones, one for personal use and the other for business.

Still, Pratt said it’s important to have real, authentic face time with a child and interact the old-fashioned way.

“If you're busy looking at your phone rather than your kids looking back at you and seeing if you're watching, they're wanting to show off. Talk to them, look them in the eye and let them look in your eye and they will be closer to you and you will be happier,” he said.

Among other things, Pratt said making time for family dinner at home is crucial and a great opportunity to put the phone down and talk and listen to children. The phone, after all, will still be there after family time.

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