Editorial: Resisting the siren song of the smartphone

It’s been a little over a decade since the first smartphones were unleashed upon the world and in that time the hand-held devices have become ubiquitous.

Name three people you know over the age of 15 who don’t own some brand of smartphone.

Better yet, name one.

Of course, with thousands of applications to choose from at the touch of a virtual button, the smartphone is less a phone than it is a pocket computer. The devices represent amazing technological advancement, no question.

They have put a world of information at our fingertips and connected us with people in the next town, the next province and on the other side of the planet, offering us the ability to not only talk, but exchange a few quick words of type or have extended face-to-face conversations in real time.

The irony in all of this, of course, is that these devices that are drawing people together from all over the world are often also driving an invisible wedge between people who are sitting next to one another on a sofa or across a table, sharing a meal.

To see a group of teens or adults in a coffee shop staring at phones and ignoring one another is a little sad, but what child development experts are discovering is far worse. They’ve found babies and toddlers are experiencing developmental delays, anxiety and behavioural issues because they are not getting the attention they need as their brains and personalities form.

In addition to the lack of vital physical connection between mother and infant, young children who are left to entertain themselves — often with a screen of their own — are receiving a subtle message each time mom or dad turns away from them to send a text or scroll through a social media feed. The message is that the small electronic device is more important to mom or dad than they are.

Without trying to shame or blame parents for the behaviour, Langley Child Development Centre has introduced a public awareness campaign.

The Talk to Me, Play With Me, Carry Me – #mywellbeingstartswithyou – campaign is meant to draw attention to habits that are having a negative effect on infants and toddlers in the hope parents will make a conscious effort to self-correct.

It can be something as simple as setting your infant on your lap while you visit, so they can feel the vibration of your voice or ignoring the tempting bing of an incoming text while you’re playing together.

In doing so, you might even find that your own mental and emotional well being improves. It will certainly make a world of difference to your child.

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