Baby's First Year · Parenting

Let your mobile device wait: The power of attentive parenting

Toddler crying after making mess with his food while parent uses smart phone

I vividly remember walking into a pediatrician office and seeing a child in the car seat on the floor, crying for her parent’s attention.  The parent then rocked the car seat with their foot while continuing to text and browse on the cell phone.  This is a common scenario many children face every day including during meal times. How can the use of a mobile device impact the developing relationship with your baby?

Evidence shows that the use of technology among families is increasing and 96% of parents own smartphones.

Let’s reflect on the scenario above, why do you think the child cried?

Perhaps baby was…

  • hungry
  • tired
  • feeling hot or cold
  • uncomfortable
  • not well
  • wanted to play
  • was bored
  • or, could it be the child needs attention from their parent/caregiver?

No matter what the reason is for crying, children need attention.   Parenting can be overwhelming and yearning to connect with other adults exists.

So, can too much attention spoil my child?

Fact: babies need lots of attention to support their emotional development and feel secure, especially if they are under one year old.

Parent/caregiver mobile device use has been linked with:

  • less parent-child verbal and nonverbal interaction
  • lower parent responsiveness
  • more temper tantrums or emotional reactivity
  • a strong predictor of child media use habits.

Tips to minimize use of a mobile device:

  • first, find out what your child is asking for
  • be aware of how you or another caregiver are role modeling the use of the device
  • set no-phone time limits for yourself/caregiver (eg., access on specific times and for short periods)
  • be a play partner by playing face to face, singing or using interactive age appropriate toys such as blocks
  • manage your stress, one may access their phone more during stressful times, so be aware of the effects on your child.

For more information, speak to a Public Health Nurse at (416) 338-7600 or via eChat to register at one of Toronto Public Health’s parenting programs.

Let us know how you set limits with your mobile device?

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