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By now, we all realize how easily our screens can distance us from one another. While the conversation usually centers around how much screen time our kids are getting, it might be time to ensure that we are focusing on how much time we are getting as well.

In modern times, phones have become commonplace. Most people have a smartphone in their pocket or purse at all times. But does this habit interfere with our child’s raising? Well, according to science, yes it does. In a recent study published in the journal Science Direct, questionnaires were given to 549 parents who had at least two kids aged 5-18.

What they found was that parents who used their phones to escape from the stresses of parenting were also more likely to participate in bad parenting behaviors, like yelling at their kids, being overly critical, and saying emotionally abusive phrases.

“When kids are showing difficult behaviors, parents might use technology to withdraw. And when you’re more absorbed in media, you might have stronger, less patient reactions to your children,” says Jasmine Zhang, lead study author and graduate student at the Whole Family Lab at the University of Waterloo.

Additionally, in the face of difficulty, these parents were also far more likely to withdraw when their kids were misbehaving, rather than facing problems head-on. Parents who were more absorbed with their phones were less likely to address the situation when their child threw a tantrum.

Conversely, parents who used their phones as simply a means to maintain social connections, like texting, emailing, or video chatting, were more likely to participate in good parenting behaviors like providing the right attention to their children when they were under duress.

As Zhang points out, there are times when we are not around our kids, that are perfect times to unwind, check our feeds, watch a few TikToks, or whatever you like to do. Spending more time on your device when your kids are present, to ‘check out’ can end up being a bad habit. Not only that, but because kids need our presence, and our attention, the more we check out, the less likely they are to get that. A bad habit can quickly become unintentional emotional neglect.

If you check your phone from time to time when your kids are around, don’t beat yourself up. Just make sure that you aren’t zoning out when your kids NEED you to be present.