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EMF Studies

14 January 2017

Parents, Put Down the Phone! Campaign Launched by Augsburg

Parents, put down the phone!
From Christian Rost, Augsburg, sueddeutsche.de, 11 January 2017 (Google translate with grammatical corrections)

  • More and more parents are neglecting their children because they are always occupied with their smartphones.
  • In the Augsburg area, posters are now being hung up and postcards distributed to encourage parents to stop and think - and to be a model for their children.
  • The initiative was launched by the Office for Youth and Family in the Landratsamt.

Teachers are talking about a "smart-ridden generation" that is just growing up and cannot even focus on one thing for a quarter of an hour. In schools, the use of mobile phones is therefore generally prohibited. But what contribution are parents making to a more conscious use of devices, which are already becoming prostheses and worse, at night? This question is at the center of a recent campaign launched by the district of Augsburg, initiated by adults who are critically questioning their use of the smartphone. For the sake of children.

Ten years after the launch of the first iPhone, communication behavior has dramatically changed in many families. Brigitte Maly-Motta, head of the Department for Early Aids at the Augsburg District Council, reports a random observation: A girl at the hairdresser's is close to tears because she does not want to have her hair cut, afraid of losing her curls. While the hairdresser is desperately talking to the child, her mother notices nothing. The woman is so intensely occupied with her smartphone that she forgets everything around her, even her child. "At the time it was clear to me," says Maly-Motta, "that we have to worry about the texting, surfing and phoning of parents."

As in other cities, for example Frankfurt, Augsburg is hanging up posters and distributing postcards to encourage parents to stop and think. The initiative was launched by the Office for Youth and Family in the Landratsamt:  5,000 postcards and 1,000 posters to raise awareness of mothers and fathers that the permanent everyday presence of media can easily make them lose sight of the need of their children for attention and eye contact. It is not yet clear what effect the use of smartphones has in the presence of children, according to the district authorities. But the experts agree:  "It is doing no good."

The campaign runs under the motto "Talk to your child!"...  It points out that children in the first years of life need close contact and intensive communication with an adult. This gives them security and is important for their development. "Communication involves eye contact and undivided attention. When parents are constantly busy with their smartphones, they miss many beautiful and important opportunities to pick up on what their child is experiencing," he says. Landrat Martin Sailer (CSU) hopes that the parents will embrace the recommendation and "give children more time and attention".

Parents are role models for their children

Besides paying more attention to children, it is also about the role model of parents. For children whose parents have experienced connectivity from an early age, being online is something self-evident in life. The consequences are declining concentration ability and the constant fear of missing something.

Here are two examples of the consequences of this use: a case of regular mobile phone addiction and a smartphone-related accident. In September, in Schwabmünchen in the district of Augsburg, the parents took away the device from their daughter. The 17-year-old retaliated in a drastic manner: while the parents were at work, she devastated the apartment. She trampled  the computer, slit all the pillows, tore off all the flowers and leaves of  he plants, poisoned her father''s medication, and stole 2,500 euros from the family's piggy bank in order to set off for Berlin to see an internet girlfriend. The police looked for the youths and handed them over to the Augsburger youth welfare office, which placed them in a home.

Serious accidents due to mobile phone use

In addition to psychological dependency, the smartphone obsession can also lead to serious accidents. In March 2016, after a Munich girl who was using her cell phone and listening to music with earplugs, was hit by a tram and fatally injured, the city of Augsburg installed special lights at two tram stations. This concerned two cases of the collision of pedestrians who were staring at their mobile phones. At the new traffic lights, red lights flash on the ground to warn mobile phone users in particular.

According to Stadtwerke spokesman Jürgen Fergg, the project is proving its worth. Since April 2016, when the traffic lights were put into operation, no such accident has occurred. "People are paying more attention," Fergg notes. Not only device users are now better warned.  Even people with poor eyesight and children whose view perspective differs from adults, are benefiting from the flashing lights, Fergg said.

Original article in German:

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