Way too many parents out there are paying more attention to their phones than to their children during mealtimes, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. And it’s not going unnoticed by the neglected little ones.
ABC reports that researchers at Boston Medical Center went undercover in 15 fast food restaurants to observe families from a distance.
Out of 55 families, parents in 40 (73%) used mobile devices during the meal, and almost a third used the devices continuously.
“Some children appeared unaffected and ate their meals in silence. Other children were more provocative, with one set of siblings singing ‘Jingle bells, Batman smells’ to get their dad’s attention.”
I’m sort of in the middle on phone/device behaviour, not one of those who uses it all the time or thinks it’s acceptable at the dinner table, but not one who thinks they’re destroying all human relationships.
This, however, disturbs me, particularly the part of the abstract that reads, “Highly absorbed caregivers often responded harshly to child misbehavior.”
Also, I think of meal times as important family time. Eating together, breaking bread, it’s sort of sacred, isn’t it? I’m not alone, obviously.
ABC quotes a Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of the MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds (not involved in the study), who says, “Mealtimes in certain cultures are generally times when children make attachments.
“When we eat, when we snuggle, when a parent puts a child to bed — these are important times when parent-child connectedness is important. It sends a message to the child to pay attention to each other, to establish some intimacy.”
In fairness, my daughter is still wee and adorable. Maybe I’ll feel totally different when she’s older and has learned to whine and throw tantrums, and I’ll be like “Just eat your freaking Chicken McNuggets and LEAVE ME IN PEACE FOR FIVE MINUTES!”
OK… No. I can’t really envision a situation in which I’m yelling at my kid or feeding her Chicken McNuggets. (And, don’t worry. I do hate how self righteous I sound.)
Lead study author, Dr. Jenny S. Radesky, says, “The conclusion I wouldn’t draw from the study is that we need to completely remove these devices when we are with our children. But it does raise the issue that we need to create boundaries for these devices when we are with our children.”
Image: © Alinute – Fotolia.com