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SALT LAKE CITY — By spending too much time on your phone, you might be sending a very strong and unintentional message to your children: They're unimportant.
A new global survey of 6,000 parents and children revealed the majority of children feel their parents spend too much time on their phones — 54 percent, to be exact.
The survey — conducted by online security company AGV Technologies — also found more than a third of the children surveyed reported feeling "unimportant" when they perceived that they were constantly competing with a cellphone for their parents' attention. Nearly 40 percent reported that their parents often allowed themselves to be distracted by their phones during conversations.
"People are plugged in all the time," said Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, executive director of the Children's Center of Salt Lake. "It is affecting family functioning and families have to draw the line."
Goldsmith said the problem isn't just that kids are feeling ignored. By spending copious amounts of time on a mobile device, parents are inadvertently teaching their children that that is the norm.
"Parents have to think about what they're modeling," he said. "If they're pulling out their phone just to surf the net and play with it in the middle of church, you're teaching your child a lesson that you may not be wanting to teach."
Parents seemed to agree with their children on the subject. The survey revealed that 52 percent of adults reported using their devices too frequently, while nearly a third said they felt they weren't setting a good example for their children.
A quarter of parents surveyed said they wanted their children to use their phones less than they do.
People are plugged in all the time. It is affecting family functioning and families have to draw the line.
–Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, Children's Center of Salt Lake
"With our kids picking up mobile devices at an increasingly younger age, it is really important that we set good habits within the home, early on," said Tony Anscombe with AVG. "Children take their cues from us for everything else, so it is only natural that they should do the same with device use."
Aside from changing the way we as adults use our phones, it's also important to establish device-free time each day to focus on our children and their needs, according to Goldsmith.
"When we're talking about personal connections, especially between a parent and a child, we need to really respect that space and not bring a cell phone into the middle of it," Goldsmith said.
This isn't the first survey on the topic. Back in October, Highlights magazine surveyed 1,500 children between the ages of 6 and 12. A whopping 68 percent of those kids reported feeling like their parents were distracted with other things when the child tried to talk to them, and most often that distraction was a cell phone.