In Nigeria and around the world, there is an alarming trend of parents ignoring their children of all ages, paying more attention to their phones and tablets than their immediate surroundings.
Children who need their parents’ responsiveness when they are angry, sad, frustrated or excited, now find they must compete for it. Their parents now have to choose between them and an electronic device. According to experts, the pervasiveness of smartphones have ushered in a new era of distracted parenting. They warn that this trend, if unchecked, can lead to psychological problems.
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a paediatrician specializing in child development started noticing how often parents ignored their kids in favour of a mobile device, when she worked at a clinic. She remembers a mother placing her phone in the stroller between herself and the baby.
"The baby was making faces and smiling at the mom," Radesky says, "and the mom wasn't picking up any of it; she was just watching a YouTube video."
Experts say that children are also experiencing negative effects of smartphone addiction because of their parents. This is because instead of filling their time talking and interacting their babies, parents are instead tapping away on their phones to pass time and kill boredom.
Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair wrote a book about parenting, called The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age says she sees a lot of distracted parents in her clinical practice.
And when parents focus on their digital world first — ahead of their children — there can be deep emotional consequences for the child, Steiner-Adair says.
"We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don't matter, they're not interesting to us, they're not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them," she says.
She suggests that parents think twice before picking up a mobile device when they're with their kids.
Are you suffering from distracted parenting? There is one fix to this, put down your devices when you are with other people; be it your children, friends, family members or your spouses. The people in our lives should get priority over devices.