Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

05 April 2017

Mothers Glued to Their Phones Pass on Their Harmful Screen Addiction to Their Children

The average person swipes, taps and pinches their
smartphone display about 2,617 times a day.
The mothers who admit they're so glued to their phones, they ignore their children - and, just as disturbing, they're passing on their harmful screen addiction
by Lauren Libbert for the Daily Mail
4 April 2017

  • Average person swipes, taps their smartphone display about 2,617 times a day
  • Excessive phone use among modern parents is becoming a widespread problem
  • Research has linked children’s social media habits to those of their parents
  • Three mothers reveal how their devices have affected their family life 



Excessive phone use among time-pressured modern parents is now such a widespread problem that one headmistress recently put her foot down; having had enough of mothers and fathers who were more engrossed in their gadgets than their children at the school gates, she put up signs telling them to ditch the devices.

The notices, outside three entrances to St Joseph’s RC Primary School in Middlesbrough, read: ‘Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile,’ along with a drawing of a person with a phone to their ear, crossed out inside a red circle.

Liz King, headmistress of St Joseph’s, said: ‘We are always looking at ways to engage parents and we’ve got the signs at each entrance. They are simple, but they carry a really important message. We are trying to develop our speaking and listening in school and we thought it was a clear way to get the message across.’

It is an admirable response to what is becoming an increasingly common problem. Research by software producer Dscout shows the average person swipes, taps and pinches their smartphone display about 2,617 times a day — or nearly one million times a year — taking an astonishing 2.42 hours out of every day.

There is also a top 10 per cent of ‘power users’ who touch their phone 5,427 times in the day — taking up 3.75 hours daily. These tech addicts touch their phones two million times over the course of a year.

Many will see these findings as no more than a sign of the times — until you consider how our phone usage affects children.

Research has irrevocably linked children’s social media habits to those of their parents. And when you consider that children’s use of technology and social media has in turn been linked to a whole range of issues from sleep deprivation to weight gain and developmental problems, suddenly the matter starts to seem far more serious.


Dr Aric Sigman, psychologist and lecturer in child health education, agrees that parents’ habits can negatively influence children.

‘Being a role model is very important for a child’s health,’ says Dr Sigman. ‘Just as a parent can create good habits in terms of food, exercise and alcohol use, so they can with screen misuse or overuse.

‘When a child sees his parent looking constantly at a smartphone, it’s likely the child will also value this activity over other interactions.

‘Add this to the fact that children are simply not moving as much as they did in the past — a recent Health Survey for England showed that the average sedentary time on weekdays was 3.3 hours for boys and 3.2 hours for girls, and this increases at the weekends — then you can see why this is a grave problem.’

There is also the issue of a child’s emotional development.

A 2014 study by UCLA found that when screen time limits face-to-face interaction, children’s social skills may be negatively affected, potentially causing problems in later life.


Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, a child psychiatrist and medical director of Woodbourne Priory Hospital in Birmingham, is sympathetic to the isolation of new mothers. ‘Being removed from the social aspects of work, as well as losing part of your personal identity as a working woman, can be a big shock,’ she says.

‘Many use the internet to seek reassurance about their parenting and to keep socially connected with family, friends and colleagues.’

However balance, as Jude says, is key.

‘Children can feel that they are not being given enough attention by their parent and they are not a priority,’ says Dr Zwanenberg. ‘This may lead to children feeling sad, or they may try to get a parent’s attention in negative ways.

‘Instead, we should be developing a “talk not tap” culture and introducing regular time where we put phones away.

‘Phones should not be present at the dinner table or when you are greeting your child after school or a club.

‘Time in the car as a family should be used for chatting not texting; this is a good time to get your child’s attention to discuss important topics.

‘Parents also need to offer one-to-one positive attention to their children each day, without distractions.’ Ultimately parents, like children, need boundaries when it comes to screen time.

‘I am sure that most parents set limits for their children about phone use and they need to apply similar rules to themselves,’ adds Dr Zwanenburg.

‘They need to decide certain times of the day when to put their phones away and focus on their face-to-face relationships. If children have to put their phones away at a certain time, then parents should do so, too.

‘Parents need to ensure they have time for affection every day with their children. They need to hear about their children’s day, their concerns and their interests, and make them feel they are important beyond anything else.’


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