'I hate my mum's phone': eight year old's words show impact of digital distraction

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Need some motivation to kick your phone habit? This Facebook post might do the trick.

Jen Adams Beason, a primary school teacher from Louisiana, US, posted about an assignment she'd given her Grade 2 students in which they were asked to write about something they wished had never been invented.

Ms Adams Beason said four out of the 21 students (ages 7-8) chose to write about mobile phones, reports the BBC.

The horrified teacher also posted a photo of one student's eye-opening response, along with the hashtags #getoffyourphones, #listentoyourkids.

"I hate my mum's phone and I wish she never had one," the child wrote. "A phone is sometimes a really bad habit. I don't like the phone because my parents are on their phones every day."

The student also included a drawing of a crossed-out phone with a sad face saying, "I hate it".

Ms Adams Beason's post has been shared more than 200,000 times and has attracted plenty of comments from guilty parents.

"Strong words for a 2nd grader!! Listen parents," wrote Sylvia Arton.

"It's the truth," wrote Beau Stermer. "I've noticed if [my child] and I are playing and my phone rings for something at work, he has nothing to do with me after I get off of it and it kills me, so I've made an agreement with myself that if I am playing with him everything else can wait."

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The post also resonated with teachers, who said they had received similar feedback in their own classrooms.

"We had a class discussion about Facebook and every single one of the students said their parents spend more time on FB then they do talking to their child. It was very eye-opening for me," wrote Abbey Fauntleroy.

The students' responses mirror recent research findings on the impact of parental smartphone use on our kids. A 2015 international survey revealed that 54 per cent of children think their parents spend too much time on their phones. And more than half of parents (52 per cent) agreed.

For 32 per cent of kids, when their parents were Facebooking, sending emails, or updating their Instagram during meal times, while watching television, playing outside, and even when talking, it left them feeling "unimportant".

In her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair interviewed around 1,000 kids about their parents' smartphone use. Ms Steiner-Adaird told NPR that children reported feeling "sad, mad, angry, and lonely" when their mums and dads used their phones. Others even admitted to throwing their parent's phone in the toilet, putting it in the oven, or hiding it.

What experts have termed "technoference" is also having an impact on our kids' behaviour. A study published last year in Child Development found that "technology-based interruptions in parent–child interactions" was linked to restlessness and anger outbursts in young children. 

"Parents should critically examine their device use and seek to minimise distractions and time spent on technology while interacting with young children," the authors said, "as our new study suggests that even minor, everyday interruptions in parent-child interactions—even in fairly high functioning families—are intricately linked with child behavior."

So what can parents do to kick their phone habit?

Common Sense Media suggests some practical tips parents can take to reduce the time spent on their devices.

1. Turn notifications off - except those from actual people!

2. Go grayscale: Yep, you can choose more muted tones for your apps, which might make you want to click on the multi-coloured Instagram icon slightly less. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations. Turn on Colour Filters, and set to "Grayscale." Look it's worth a try?

3. Limit what's on your home screen: Keep it to email, maps and your calendar, with all other apps (read: the big time suckers) banished to the second or third screens.

4. Take social media off your phone. "You'll likely be more intentional about when and where you dip into Facebook and Instagram if you only do it on a computer," the organisation says.