February 2020
In this issue: Parenting in a Technology-Focused World
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Parenting in a Technology Focused World

We’ve all heard of distracted driving, but have you heard about distracted parenting? Distractions can be caused by many things, but the distraction we’re talking about is from technology such as phones and tablets.

Let’s face it, technology is everywhere! In pregnancy, you might use it to keep track of appointments, follow your baby’s growth and development and get quick answers to your questions.  Not to mention, technology is responsible for you reading this e-newsletter right now—and for that we are thankful! 

Although technology has its advantages, it also gets criticized for being a distraction, preventing us from living in the moment, reducing physical activity and sleep, and increasing anxiety. In recent years, there has also been a lot of new information about the effects of screen time on kids. But, have you ever thought about how your own screen time might affect your children?  

What is distracted parenting?

Distracted parenting is a break in your attention and responsiveness. It means you are distracted from providing undivided physical and emotional care to your child. Tech-distracted parenting is simply when technology is the cause of the distraction. This is a big concern because we use technology for so many things in our day-to-day lives, and our tech goes with us everywhere!

What are the risks?

When you are distracted by that buzzing phone in your pocket, you are missing chances for face-to-face interactions that are essential for helping your little one’s brain develop. During the first few years of life, your child’s brain is building more than 1 million new connections every second! You are an important part of helping your child build and strengthen those connections that form the building blocks of your child’s lifelong learning. Although it is difficult for research to keep up with the fast pace of technological change, there is evidence that technology is affecting interactions between parents and kids.   

Research tells us:  
  • When parents are absorbed in their devices, they talk less, take longer to respond and are more likely to respond harshly to their children.    
  • Non-verbal interactions between adults and children are reduced when the parent is using a mobile device.
  • When TV is on (even in the background), adults and children talk and play less.
  • Children learn less during a teaching task with their parents when the task is interrupted by the parent’s mobile device.   
  • Children ‘act out’ to compete for their parents’ attention.
Even young babies can become distressed quickly when their parent is not responsive to their social cues.  Watch the Still Face Experiment video below to see for yourself.
Still Face Experiment

What can you do?

We know that it’s harder to do anything well when our attention is being pulled in more than one direction, and parenting is no different!  We encourage you to look at the influence technology has on you before your baby is born. Maybe you could try a (mostly) tech-free weekend or use a tech time-tracking app to measure how much time you spend on your device. Understanding your relationship with technology gives you the power to decide whether to make any changes. You could also ask yourself: 
  • How comfortable are you with the idea of having technology-free time throughout the day? 
  • Do you feel the need to look at your phone or device as soon as you hear a notification?
  • Do you feel compelled to post pictures or videos as soon as you take them? 
  • Do you look for ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ whenever you have a few free seconds?
  • Do you feel like you are always at work because your phone, computer or other device keeps you connected 24/7?
  • Does online time interfere with you being physically active?  
  • Is screen time before bed affecting the amount or quality of your sleep?
  • Do you use your device to ‘escape’ when you feel stressed?
We know technology isn’t going away. We certainly aren’t asking anyone to go technology-free! But it’s important to start thinking about how you will use technology after your baby is born. Being more deliberate in your use of technology will help you put technology on the back burner so you can be a more responsive parent.
Consider making a list of technology promises to your unborn baby and posting it where you can see it everyday. You can then adapt the list as you learn what it’s like to be a parent and what’s realistic for you and your family. Here are some things you could include in your technology promise:  
  • Be in the moment when having 1:1 time with your baby, such as during feeding, reading, playing, bathing and bedtime. Make these activities a ‘no-phone/tablet zone’.
  • Limit how often you check your phone or other devices during the day. 
  • Turn off notifications so you don’t feel pulled to your phone or device during your technology-free times.     
  • Check or post on social media only when your baby is sleeping or being cared for by someone else.
  • Keep yourself and your baby busy on outings (e.g., to restaurants, vehicle trips, the grocery store) without using screens/media. 
  • Don’t leave screens playing in the background. 
For more information about distracted parenting and reducing technology’s hold on you, check out these blog posts:  

Recent newsletters:

January 2020- Working with Pain
December 2019- Breastfeeding and Bonding: Getting partners involved
November 2019- How a support person can help birth go smoother

Your child's developmental milestones:

Want more stage and age-specific information? Visit our website to read about your child's development and get more activities and healthy living tips:
1st trimester | 2nd trimester | 3rd trimester | Newborn

Learn more:

  • Want to learn more about pregnancy? Public Health has a FREE Online Prenatal Program.
  • Planning to give birth at the Guelph General Hospital Family Birthing Unit? Sign up for their tour and information session offered the third Wednesday evening of each month. 
  • Enjoying this monthly e-newsletter? Subscribe to Public Health's Let's Talk Parenting e-Newsletter to get reliable, local parenting information directly to your inbox.
  • Not sure how you will pay for dental care for your children? Public Health has free dental clinics for kids ages 0 to 17.
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