When your phone becomes a priority, children suffer

Photo Credit: WRKN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The word addiction is often associated with drugs or alcohol, not so much technology.

And while over-using cell phones may not qualify as an addiction, doctors are warning about the negative effects—not on you, but on your kids.

More than 90 percent of American adults own a cell phone. It’s a new world we live in, always attached—a world seemingly inside our devices.

And who is paying attention? At times, it’s children more than anyone else.

Heads down, focused on email, texting, or social media. It’s happening everywhere and Middle Tennessee is no exception.

It may only feel like one moment of distraction, but moments add up.

“Where’s your priority? What’s the message you’re sending your child?” asked Dr. Joseph Giangte.

Dr. Gigante is a professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. He says face-to-face contact is the primary way kids learn.

He says children are stripped of that when cell phones get in the way.

“Being able to read emotions—that doesn’t happen if your face is buried, in your phone,” Gigante said.

Instead, developmental lessons are lost. Kids can be emotionally damaged and experience self-esteem issues.

Dinner time is a big opportunity for interaction. News 2’s investigation found moms and dads are missing those chances.

Researchers at Boston Medical Center found the same after studying parents at fast food chains. One-third of them used their cell phones continually; 70 percent of them checked, at least once.

Now, work-life balance can’t always cooperate. Ryan Balch lives it every hour, running his own business.

“There’s a physical separation that needs to occur, so when I’m with them. I’m with them,” he told News 2.

He says the effort is more enjoyment, which comes naturally, and quality time in the yard, which deserves his undivided attention.

“You can’t create that unless you have time, and that’s focus time,” Balch added.

The collection of those moments for Balch creates a special relationship.

As recent as this month, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association warned excessive technology use in families can irreversibly damage communication skills.

One simple activity to help both children and parents with interaction is reading.

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