Parenting Principle #4: Reduce Electronic Noise

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on reducing the electronic noise that permeates modern family life.

Electronic devices are a fundamental part of the fabric of modern family life. Most families have some form of electronic device in operation, and most have multiple streams going on, typically simultaneously. There’s no point to suggesting that life will be any different in the near future.

The reality is that it is up to parents to try to make sure that the benefits of screen time outweigh the downsides. The primary downside is when electronics interfere with parent-child interaction.

We can see this everywhere. It’s not hard to discover young kids in restaurants spending most of their time on their smartphone or other device. Their parents may be on theirs as well. The fact that this is happening isn’t so disconcerting, if it is balanced with some quality family talk time. Meals used to be a primary way for families to interact and talk and all be together without interruption. We need some of that back.

And the same goes for family time at home. Even the good old television is a continuing source of interference for parent-child interaction. A recent paper published in the Journal of Children and Media found, using a controlled experimental setting, that parental talk (number of words and utterances per minute, as well as number of new words used) decreased when there was background noise from the TV. Electronic noise becomes intrusive even when we aren’t aware of it and, simply put, interferes with parent-child interaction.

We are aware that we need to monitor what kids are exposed to on television, radio, smartphones, tablets and computers. We know that it’s important to turn those things off sometime so that parents and kids can talk and play and interact without distraction. But it’s really important to keep in mind that we aren’t good at blocking out the background noise even if we think we aren’t paying attention to it. We all get more than enough screen time. It’s worth making sure we get in the habit of reducing the electronic noise that we have floating in the background because it’s an insidious siphon of parent-child time. It’s easy – just turn it off.

More in This Series

If you have school-age children, make sure they sign our Family Use Internet Contract.

Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology

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  1. [...] Parenting Principle #4: Reduce Electronic Noise [...]

  2. [...] the same. This finding underscores the worry that many parents have about the negative impact of prolonged exposure to digital media. “Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking [...]