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SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a very high likelihood your child isn’t always happy sharing you with the other love of your life: your cellphone.
The 2014 “State of the Kid” by Highlights magazine surveyed 1,500 children ages 6 to 12. Of those surveyed, 62 percent said they felt their parents were often focused on other things when the child tried to talk to them. Most of those children said the main source of distraction was that electronic device many of us can’t live without.
“Parents are more plugged into technology than ever before, but they may not realize the impact it has on their kids when they are constantly texting or checking email and social media,” said Dr. Michele Borba, author of "The Big Book of Parenting Solutions."
When it comes to building bonds with our children, there are no shortcuts. It is only achieved when parents set aside time for quality, face-to-face communication with kids.
–Dr. Michele Borba
Other distractions included siblings, work, TV, talking to other people, computers, cooking, driving and housework.
“When it comes to building bonds with our children, there are no shortcuts,” Borba said. “It is only achieved when parents set aside time for quality, face-to-face communication with kids. The simple act of having a family meal together several times a week — with no TVs and phones — can have a big effect on kids’ social and emotional development, as well as academic performance.”
The annual survey — released Wednesday — gathers children’s opinions on a variety of topics, including distracted parenting, school and extracurricular activities. In short, it gives children a chance to talk about “what it’s like to be a kid today,” according to Highlights Editor in Chief Christine French Cully.
The survey is designed to bring children’s voices into major social discussions. Like cellphone use, for example. Highlights asked the children what they think their parents would do if they lost their phones for a day.
One 8-year-old girl summed it up like this: “I think my mom would go crazy and have a heart attack and then faint.”
A 6-year-old said her parents’ reaction would be split.
“My dad would go crazy! My mom would be glad!” she said.
Highlights asked the children when they felt like their parents were most attentive when they had something important to say. Mealtimes came out on top, followed by bedtime, and while driving in the car.
Most of the children said they felt validated when their parents took part in the conversation.
I think my mom would go crazy and have a heart attack and then faint (if she lost her phone).
“My parent would be asking questions. Not just 'uh huh,'” said one 10-year-old boy.
Another 10-year-old said, “I know my parents are really listening to me when they are sitting down and not on their phones.”
Borba suggests enforcing “sacred unplugged times” in the home where every member of the family turns off their devices and focuses on each other.
“Placing limits on your own screen time sends a signal to your kids about your priorities, and it serves as a good example for them to model,” she said. Jessica Ivins is a content manager for KSL.com and contributor to the Motherhood Matters section.