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  • Junior Oliveira

Parents' Screen Time; How to avoid the trap of present but absent parenting

Updated: Aug 2

We know that a usual routine of working parents sometimes can be exhausting. And as a dad of a young child, sometimes I have that feeling that I'm literally racing against the clock. ​We are living in unprecedented times, and after months of lockdown, many families experienced real crises, due to the complexities related to time management, home office or homeschooling, etc. I am sure you have the same impression as me, as life goes on and at some point, you realize you've spent the last few weeks on the “autopilot mode”. Thus, it is common that most of the parents in the 21st century feel a terrible strain as they try to juggle their responsibilities at home and at work, and as a result, they face the dangers of present but absent parenting.



We can think that our children do not even notice this condition, however sometimes just “being there” isn’t enough, and sadly they can interpret it as negligence.


These days, parents are more connected than ever, but plugged in parenting is leading to distracted parenting, and due to the digital transformation in our society, some parents are struggling to balance a healthy family time and the necessity to be present at home with technology-based expectations like answering to work messages and other professional demands. And I can not forget to mention that some people love associate parental pride intention with “oversharenting” and they feel lots of “social pressure” to post things on social media to create a lovely presentation of themselves to address their utopia of “Facebook-happy stories”, or “Instagram-perfect life” culture (have a look at my post about the risks related to Sharenting).


But how does it affect our children?

According to Dr Deborah Lan (Psychologist and Kids and Screen collaborator), the consequences of absent parenting for children can be extremely detrimental to them, and it can affect their adulthood. Also, children might internalize a low sense of self-worth based on the feeling that they are not a good child, or they are not lovable, or they do not deserve to be part of that family, or they are not worthwhile or attractive. Apart from that, there are real costs to children who do not experience a loving relationship with their parents, and as a domino effect, there is another possible consequence is that they may struggle to parent their own kids because they lack a proper model to follow.


What parents can do about it

I didn't mean to be negative in my previous paragraphs, I was really trying to just be realistic everyone. Let’s go for the good news then? In a recent research conducted among 2000 children (in America) pinpointed the top activities children want to do more often with their families, and by checking this list I can say that with an effective time management plan we certainly can make it.


Also, this study has shown that 73% of kids would like more opportunities to bond with their parents. Another outcome is that these children considered their family life to be very close—even much more intimate than relationships they had with friends. Another interesting finding is that this survey found that 70% of parents would also like more chances to spend quality time together.


Regarding the mealtime, these children said that they’d have more fun with their family if they were allowed to decide the order of the meal, i.e. dessert first (59%), could order for the entire family (52%) or if they were the only ones allowed to ask questions at the table (32%).


TOP 20 ACTIVITIES KIDS MOST WANT TO DO WITH THEIR PARENTS

Let’s have a look at this top 20 list, and another good news is that great part of the activities on the parents’ wish-lists matched with what their kids wanted to do, so implementing more family time should be fairly easy.

1. Go to the beach

2. Exercise

3. Play sports

4. Go to the pool

5. Go to the movies

6. Play at a park

7. Camp

8. Take a day trip (zoo, museum, amusement park, etc.)

9. Play video games

10. Go shopping

11. Go out to dinner together

12. Hike

13. Go to an event (sporting event, concert, etc.)

14. Spend time together in the car (driving to school, appointments, extracurriculars, etc.)

15. Watch movies at home

16. Make a meal together

17. Eat meals together at home

18. Play board games/card games

19. Create arts and crafts

20. Have them help with homework


Family responsibilities

We know when both parents are occupied with their jobs for eight or more hours per day, it is a constant social pressure with lots of positive aspirations behind (definitively great acts of love gesture) that might be in order to buy a house or pay the rent, afford trips/family holidays or just to maintain the family budget; However we have to find ways to connect with our children, then, letting go of the inner rush allows us to experience higher states and it is like joy. Luckily, mums and daddies searching for inspiration, have a look at a post that might be useful “15 screen-free ideas to make your children unplug from digital technology.


Sometimes we have to say “no”

Dr Lan also explain that we have to bear in mind that parents also need some time alone to “recharge and refresh their batteries”. That’s completely normal and they do not have to feel guilty for that. Another important point is that parents do not have to be afraid that every time they say “no” to their children, and it will not to scar their kids children for life. This kind of situation is also essential to help children to find out how the world works, learn how to manage their feelings regarding appropriate time and respect people's spaces or even social rules.


My final considerations: I know that being a good mum or a good daddy nowadays, it is not an easy task, and thus our parent’s role is much more than to provide a physical well-being, material goods or to teach our children morals and personal values, but apart from that we have to encourage our children to navigate life, and for that we have to provide love, emotional support, and protection to make sure they fully feel loved.


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References: To see the sources of this article, please click in each link within the text.

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