Fair warning: Before you even read this post on your phone or device, know that you may feel guilty if you have children close by. I feel guilty even writing it because I know that I am a screen addict and it hurts my kids.
My kids aren’t alone. According to a new study, 54 percent of kids between the ages of eight and 13 say their parents check their screens too often. The study was done by AVG, an online security firm that polled more than 6,000 people from around the world.
But that’s not all: Thirty-two percent of kids feel unimportant when parents check their phones. I found this statistic even more distressing because it implies that kids feel like we’re choosing our phones over them—and I guess sometimes we are!
Sure, we can tell ourselves that it’s work related or that we’re planning play dates or that whatever we are looking at is really important. But do I really need to know what Kate Middleton wore? Do I really need to watch that Jimmy Fallon video right now?
In the survey, more than half of parents say they check their phones too often. I’m willing to give myself some leeway: Part of my job is to stay connected, and sometimes I really am reading an important email or doing research for a story. But I have to remind myself that my kids don’t know the difference.
And now I’m seeing the tables turn: As my kids get older (they’re 12 and nine), I find myself fighting with them to put down their phones. Here I am, whining like a toddler so they’ll pay attention to me. And I’m definitely not alone in feeling this way: Twenty-five percent of parents in the survey want their kids to use their devices less.
It’s a strange new world. Parents and kids alike are trying to deal with the addictive pull of their devices. On the one hand, they allow us to leave our offices and our desks and be at least physically present with our kids. But is being there without being mentally available really so great? What message are we sending our kids if we’re making them feel like what is on a screen is more important than them?
Figuring out how to balance our connected lives and our family lives is a work in progress at my house. Some days I think I’m doing an okay job at it, but some days I know I’m not. Maybe I should find out what my kids think—and be ready for their answers.
Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of which are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.