“Children need physical engagement with their parents including eye contact, touch and emotional participation to learn the emotional, social and cognitive skills that will equip them for life. What many adults don’t realise is that children notice from a very young age if their parents are too absorbed in technology to meaningfully respond to them,” Dr Jacqui explains.
“There are certain basic rules in your interaction with your child that may be overlooked when you are busy on your phone, whether you are taking an important work phone call or simply playing on Facebook in your child’s presence.
Children need discipline and take their cue for establishing emotional boundaries from their parents and if parents are conveying the message that the cellphone is more important than respect for human relationships, the child is likely to feel ignored.
“As children learn social behaviour from their parents, they may grow up with similar patterns. For example, studies have shown that people often respond harshly when they are ‘interrupted’ while absorbed in technology. If you were to frequently snap at your child when they need your attention, this could teach your child that disrespecting interpersonal relationships is acceptable behaviour.”
Dr Joubert recommends unplugging from technology when spending time with your child, at least for a few hours each day. “Teach them the value of meaningful interaction by being fully present and engaging with your child without distractions. Parents need to show maturity in prioritising their children over the appeal of increasingly intrusive technology.”