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Parents prefer phones to kids?

Those who specialize in child development say they're noticing more incidents of parents ignoring their kids in favor of their phones. For some kids, phones become hate objects.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

So cute. So adorable. The phone, that is. Apple/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When your child throws your cell phone down the toilet, you imagine that it's just a silly accident, don't you?

You've clearly not read enough children's books lately.

Children are dark, mischievous, occasionally downright nasty little things, demanding of more attention than a reality show contestant.

So should your phone meet a wet grave, consider this: Little Jocasta is sick and tired of you using that phone. And little Jocasta just isn't going to take it anymore.

As NPR reports, those who study children are concerned that parents in the more tech-obsessed parts of America (which would be almost everywhere) are ignoring their kids because phones are more interesting.

So kids are getting miffed.

In a book called "The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age," psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair gave examples.

One child threw a parent's phone down the toilet. Another offered this painful quote: "I feel like I'm just boring. I'm boring my dad because he will take any text, any call, anytime -- even on the ski lift!"

I have no evidence that the dad in this case was CEO of a tech company.

Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician whose specialty is child development, says that in her observation some parents are more enchanted by screens than screams.

Indeed, she thought this such a grave state of affairs that she decided to study it. She and two fellow researchers sat in fast food restaurants and watched as parents and kids did their thing.

She says that out of the 55 parent-child groups they studied, 40 of the parents pulled out their phones and many seemed more engrossed in that than in their kids; 27 percent of parents used their phones for the whole time.

In one case, she described how a dad shouted at his kids to stop singing, because he was focused on his phone. The kids sang even louder.

Clearly, kids cannot decide if screens are their friends or not.

Some teachers worry that kids are being given iPads at a very young age, but have no clue what to do with building blocks.

Many parents give their kids iPhones or iPads to keep them quiet. There's nothing more mesmerizing than a silly game that's been specifically created to mesmerize kids.

The ultimate result, though, must surely be diminishing levels of interaction between parent and child. More and more people are disappearing into their own screen worlds and participating in their own virtual spheres.

Perhaps they find this more controllable, as well as enjoyable. And if it makes fast food restaurants less noisy, perhaps it'll be good for business.

Something, though, might be lost.

As individualistic philosophies are foisted upon societies that once believed in a more communal mentality, everyone becomes their own little island. That island often does most of its relating --business and personal -- through a screen.

If this continues, parents may be left as providers, rather than givers of joy and togetherness. Their relationship with their children might become increasingly virtual.

Kids, meanwhile, will become their own little operating systems.

Still, as we all become robotized by the superior vision of our masters in the Valley, perhaps it's best that kids are prepared for what is to come.