The Impact of Parents' Cell Phone Usage on Their Child

Cell phones are the way of the world, we all walk around with one in our pocket, or hand, but did you ever consider the impact YOUR smartphone use is having on your young child?

As you know, healthy social emotional development is best supported in the early years of life.  Consider the impact your attention to a smartphone may have on your child…

cell phone

Engagement- are you paying attention to your child?  Do you hear what they are telling you?  See what they are showing you?  Do you take opportunities to share conversation and experiences?


Distraction- are your routines predictable?  Do you attend to your child the first time they need help?  Can they count on you to pay attention to them when needed?


Unconditional Love-   is your body language telling them they are the most important person in the world?  That nothing else is as important as them?

In an NPR radio clip, a pediatrician suggests that paying attention to your device more than your child is a “big mistake” because…

Face-to-face interactions are the primary way children learn.  "They learn language, they learn about their own emotions, they learn how to regulate them," she says.  "They learn by watching us how to have a conversation, how to read other people's facial expressions.  And if that's not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones."

Click here to listen to (or read) the full story.

[NPR radio, "For the Children's Sake, Put Down that Smartphone"]

Quick points to consider:

  • Children are likely to act out when parents’ are using their cell phone- in effort to get their parents’ attention.  Engagement
  • When using the cell phone, our brain is in the “to do” mode, making us more irritable when we are interrupted.  Distraction
  • When parents focus on their smartphone first, ahead of their children, there can be emotional consequences for their child.  The message the parent is sending is that their children don’t matter and they are not interesting to us. Unconditional Love

bored kid

If some of these points are hitting home with you…

Here’s what you can do:

  • Monitor your own device usage.  Be more aware of when you are using it while you are with your children.
  • Make “no device areas” in your homeand life (see attached sign to print and hang as a reminder) such as the dinner table, the car, school, or bedrooms.
  • Teach your children to “touch and talk” asking them to touch you gently on your arm or shoulder when they want your attention so that they have an appropriate way to request it. (see the attached social story to practice with your child)

Send Home Resources

No Electric Device Sign

Getting an Adult's Attention