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Parenting and Smart Phones  

Smart phones are ever present in many of our lives, and becoming more prominent all the time. According to the Pew Research Center almost 2/3’s of American adults now own a smart phone, that number almost doubling since 2011. Our smart phones have clearly had an impact on our behavior, but what impact do they have on parenting?

Perhaps the biggest concern about smart phones and parenting is that they contribute to parents being more distracted than ever. One possible outcome – an increase in children getting hurt in accidents. Research from the Center for Disease Control suggests that accidental childhood injuries have increased about ten percent between 2007 and 2012, while such injuries had been decreasing slightly over time before 2007. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that the first iPhone was released in 2007. Perhaps not. And more recent data is not yet available to me, but it should be telling if the trend continues as smart phone use among us has almost doubled. A recent observational study of parents in New York playgrounds found that parents were distracted from focus on their children 74% of the time. Granted, cell phone use only accounted for that distraction 30% of the time. In support of the continued presence and value of social interaction, talking to other parents was the greatest source of distraction, at 33% of the time.

I have written here before about the potential impact of digital distraction and how it can lead to children feeling like they have to compete for their parents’ attention. Escalating misbehavior on the part of children is often a follow up. It is pretty easy to see the potential harm of distraction in parenting, but there are also potential consequences of smartphone use on parenting. I will discuss some of them, as well as give some recommendations for responsible use, in upcoming articles.