By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media Parenting Editor
We've all seen that dad yakking away on his cell phone at the playground while his 3-year-old resorts to increasingly desperate measures to get his attention. We've also been that parent. We answer emails, update Facebook, take a conference call and try to get in that one last text. The thing is, kids notice -- and they're not happy about it.
Lots of studies address the impact of screen time on kids, and guidelines show how much is appropriate at what age. But researchers are just beginning to look into the effect that parents' screen use has on kids. One study of how families at a restaurant interacted with each other when they used cell phones demonstrated that caregivers who were "highly absorbed" in their devices responded harshly to their kids' bids for attention. And in her book The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, Catherine Steiner-Adair found that kids often feel they have to compete with devices for their parents' attention.
Most importantly, kids learn their screen habits from us. It might be easier if someone just gave parents a recommended daily time limit so we'd know when to stop. In the meantime, we'll need to find balance. But there's a huge motivator to change our behavior: The little girl on the play structure, the boy learning to skateboard, the twins playing dress-up. They're watching us, watching our phones.
5 Ways to Find a Healthy Balance of Media and Technology
- Be a role model. When kids are around, set an example by using media the way you want them to use it. Keep mobile devices away from the dinner table, turn the TV off when it's not being watched and use a DVR to record shows to watch later.
Check out "Don't Miss the Moment" and other videos in the Common Sense #realtime campaign:
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Great new campaign from @CommonSense! Parents need to show kids how to find balance with tech. Make room for #realtime!
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org