Relax, Because Science Says We’re Not Ignoring Our Kids Nearly As Much As We Think We Are

shutterstock_159921983As parents we probably spend a lot of time feeling guilty and worrying about all the things we might be doing wrong. Am I talking enough baby talk and reading enough books? Did I traumatize my child forever when I tried to read The Velveteen Rabbit and started sobbing so hard she freaked out and crawled away? And am I spending too much time on the Internet reading articles about how I probably spend too much time on the Internet? The answer to that last one is apparently a resounding “yes,” because a new study indicates that parents are spending a lot less time on their phones than they think.

According to GeekWire, nearly half of all parents surveyed said they worry about the effect that their spending too much time on the phone while at the park would have on their kids. But researchers who spent time actually watching parents at the park said two-thirds of all parents were on their phones less than five percent of the time they were at the park with their kids. Heck, 41 percent of parents at the park with their kids did not use their phones at all.

I am not one of those parents, but that’s OK. I like taking pictures of my kid as she does park things, and I’ve often made myself feel better by saying that if other parents are giving me the stink-eye because of it, then that is their problem. But it looks like they probably aren’t giving me the stink-eye, because they’re too busy panicking about spending five percent of their park time on the phone and turning their kids into motorcycle gangers or investment bankers as a result.

According to the study authors, more than half of all phone use was a minute or less, and the most of that was less than ten seconds.

”Phones do distract us and that’s something to be aware of, but I think it’s not nearly as bad as some people have made things out to be,” said co-author Julie Kientz, associate professor of human centered design and engineering and director of the UW Computing for Healthy Living and Learning Lab.

Frankly, this makes me really angry to see a report about how phone use is not really that big of a problem compared with the volume of think pieces and shaming memes about how we’re all a bunch of phone-obsessed narcissists effing up our kids. Every time I open the computer I run into a study or a think piece about how I am doing things wrong. It is like there is a whole industry of shame and worry built around parenting. It makes us worry, and it rewards us for worrying on the grounds that if we’re worrying, at least we’re better than those suckers who aren’t worrying. “If you are worrying, it’s a sign that you’re not one of those bad people fucking everything up.” But we’re worrying for no reason, and it’s a waste of energy.

It is exhausting and sucks a lot of the fun out of things like going to the park with one’s kids. If this study should tell us anything, it’s not that we can relax about phone use. It’s that we can relax about most of the scaremongering parenting articles clogging up the Internet. Worrying is overrated. Go to the park. Take a picture of your kid, email it to your family, and be really excited about how we live in a world in which smart phones exist.

Photo: Shutterstock

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