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Are You A Distracted Parent? Put That Phone Down! [AUDIO]

If you have been out to dinner, chances are you have seen a parent sitting at a nearby table with their child focused solely on their smartphone and not speaking to their child.

Texting
(Christopher Furlong, Getty Images)

It has become all too common in this information age as smartphones have brought with them a false sense of needing to respond to texts, emails and work messages on an immediate basis. But, ignoring your child’s needs can be detrimental to him or her in the long run.

“The use of smartphones has vastly increased and they can be all-encompassing and distracting,” said Dr. Lawrence Laveman, developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Children’s Specialized Hospital. “But, ignoring a child while spending time on the phone sends the message that the parents are disinterested in what is going on with that child. The importance of a meal as a social opportunity for families cannot be missed.  When you bring a child to a restaurant, it is the golden opportunity to have face-to-face interactive time with your child.”

A study released in the journal Pediatrics found that of 55 caregivers, eating and interacting with one or more children, 40 used a mobile device during a meal, 16 used the mobile device throughout the meal and three adults gave a device to a child to keep them occupied. Some children started looking for attention by singing songs or doing something to make their caregiver respond.

It is important for adults to understand that the need for immediate response is not critical.

“Parents need to focus on their priorities in being a parent and being an adult and that just 10 years ago, we didn’t have the immediacy that a smartphone provides us with,” Laveman said. “People didn’t think twice about waiting to answer a message on their answering machine. Now, people feel the need to immediately respond to whatever comes across on their phone and that need is not real. That’s a fabricated need. Meeting the needs of your child is always the highest priority as a parent, and attending to their needs is always the highest priority.”

There are times to make phone calls, there are times to answer emails and there are times to tend to children — and people need to use their common sense, according to Laveman.

“There is an overall lack of common sense in our society that people put a higher priority on responding to text messages, emails and phone messages than the social needs of those around them,” he said. “If you are out with your child, putting the phone down is a good idea.”

To see the study in its entirety, visit http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/.

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