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Mom and child at park taking a selfie.

Parenting in the Digital World - Technoference

Have you ever been distracted by your phone while interacting with your child or grandchild? I was distracted the other day while playing with my grandson. We were at the playground and he was showing me his incredible physical abilities: climbing, running, and sliding. He was enjoying my attention and I started to narrate his feats using my announcer's voice, “He climbs to the top of the ladder. Look at that technique. What will he do next? He is about to slide down that BIG slide. Can he do it?” Then my cellphone vibrated. I reached for my phone and noticed two messages. I quickly read the messages, but nothing urgent. I decided to respond later.

My grandson was observant. “Grammie, next time we come to the park can you leave your phone at home?” Yes, and that is the world we live in. I use my phone to check the time and to take pictures at the park. Okay, and to check messages that can clearly wait until later.

In recent years, with the prevalence of cellphones and other digital distractions at our fingertips, research has shown that “technoference” can negatively affect the quality of time we spend with others, including our children.

Technoference creates minor everyday intrusions and interruptions. It’s caused by the attention paid to personal technological devices during interpersonal communication and daily activities with our family members.

Technoference can happen at the park, while we are making dinner, helping with homework, or going for a walk. Have you ever gotten annoyed by a text, a YouTube clip, or a Facebook post and misdirected your frustration toward your child who needed something at that moment? Technoference is what happens when we only hear part of what our spouse or child is saying and nod in agreement without realizing what we agreed to.

Although technology has many positive uses and can help us stay connected with others when we are not together, it is important to consider limits, in particular when it distracts us from being present when we are together.

Here are some tips to avoid the negative aspects of technoference:

  • Become aware of your cellphone and other personal technology use. How much is too much? What we do not recognize, we cannot adjust.
  • Create technology-free times or zones in the house. For example, no technology at dinner or no technology in a child’s bedroom.
  • Develop mindful practices. Put your phone down or away while playing with or reading to your child. Be present for their physical and emotional presence and needs.
  • Model healthy communication that does not include technology. Have conversations that include eye contact and conversational skills like listening and pausing before responding.
  • Engage in activities that use all the senses like baking, biking in the neighborhood, or exploring a nature trail. Beware of technology pitfalls: When baking, print or write out the recipe so you don’t need the digital tutorial and can put the phone away. If you take your phone for safety reasons while biking in nature, leave it in the backpack.
  • Don’t try to change everything at once. Create a reasonable adjustment of technology use and give yourself and your children permission to do this as well, and to have off days.

Other helpful links:

Visit CHKD.org/ParentingResources for further information, tips, and webinar registration links.

Visit CommonSenseMedia.org for more information, ratings, and reviews of digital media.

About Michele Tryon, CCLS

About Michele  Tryon, CCLS Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.