We all want a strong parent-child relationship.
But let me ask you a question and share something with you that will almost guarantee a better parent-child relationship.
Have you ever noticed yourself mindlessly picking up your cell phone to only realize it moments later, even when out with friends or family?
It’s a habit and we’ve shared before how the creators of smartphones and apps use psychology to manipulate both our children and us parents to make us addicted to picking up our phones. We get sucked in within moments and don’t even realize what’s around.
The average person, according to Gallup, is picking up their cell phone several times an hour and many times we’re not even conscious we’re doing this.
Just watch those in your family and how often they’re picking it up for even just moments.
I even recommend for a few days making a screensaver for yourself to say something like: “Did I Just Consciously Pick Up My Phone?” You’ll see it each time when you go to use your phone and you’ll probably chuckle and say, ‘darn it got me.’
So what does this have to do with the parent-child relationship?
Studies are showing that not only are meals less enjoyable and ruining family dinners but that the presence of a cell phone makes the feeling of connection even less.
Parent Child Relationship With Smartphones
Have you ever been guilty of phubbing?
You probably have, even if you don’t realize it.
Phubbing is actually the new term for ‘phone snubbing,’ where you treat your phone as more important than the person you’re spending time with (whether that person is a spouse, child, or friend).
And, unfortunately, phubbing is having an impact on every one of those relationships.
Kosta Kushlev, an assistant professor of psychology at Georgetown University, decided to study the impact of cell phones after becoming more aware of his own behavior.
What he found was that because the effects were subtle, it mostly went unnoticed by the party using the phone (even though it was their own happiness that was being compromised).
Kushlev found it wasn’t the presence of the phone, specifically, that was making people unhappy. He said that it was, rather, that the phone was “leading you to miss out on opportunities that you might have otherwise had… You can’t really pick up exactly from where you left off. It’s interrupted.”
It certainly is true of the impact phones have on the child-parent relationship.
“Kushlev performed a study that looked at how parents experience a day at the museum when they are allowed to just barely use their phones versus when they’re encouraged to use their phones as much as possible. The study found that parents who used their phones more reported being in a worse mood, feeling less social connection, and feeling less ‘meaning’ — which Kushlev says is particularly remarkable.”
Elizabeth Dunn and Ryan Dwyer, two researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada, conducted a study on cell phone use and found that “technology at the table caused people to feel more distracted and less socially engaged, leading to a drop in enjoyment equivalent to half a point on a seven-point scale.”
Just the PRESENCE of a phone on the table during dinner (even if no one is using it) presents a distraction that impacts happiness. It’s constantly pulling at the attention of the owner of the phone and it makes the other person or people feel less valued.
So even if we mute our phone, just having it on the table will present a constant reminder that makes us want to check for notifications multiple times each hour (which means repeatedly during dinner out). It’s hard to help ourselves. It’s a mindless habit that we’ve formed after years of use.
The best solution and the one that’s guaranteed to improve the parent-child relationship as well as all your other relationships, is to make a rule that there will be no phones at the table and that they’ll be silenced (or turned off entirely) during the meal.
Your kids will know they have your undivided attention and you’ll actually find that you, yourself, enjoy the experience more because you won’t have interruptions pulling you away from what you’re experiencing with your family in the moment.
Conclusion: Strengthening the Parent Child Relationship
Most, if not all of us, have been guilty of letting our phones distract us from fully enjoying our time with loved ones, whether it’s a spouse, friend, or child.
And unfortunately, we aren’t typically even aware of the impact it’s having on our happiness.
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, social media platforms hire psychologists to manipulate us into picking up our devices more often and staying on them longer. Which means it’s up to us to try to put boundaries in place so our cell phone doesn’t get in the way of our time with family and friends.
Create a rule where no phones are allowed at the dinner table. You may even want to have a rule for your family where phones must be muted or turned off so you won’t hear any ringing or notifications going off while you’re with family.
You may feel that pull to check your phone (especially if it’s habit you’ve formed over years), but if you stick to your rule, you’ll find that you actually begin to enjoy the time spent with your family even more.
You may even want to consider setting rules and putting boundaries in place for when you’re with family or friends outside of the house.
Do you have any rules for cell phones in your home now? Have you ever had a conversation with your kids over limits? Let us know in the comments below or jump into our Facebook Group and join the conversation there.