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Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Connecting with Children in a Smart Phone World

Thursday, February 8th, 2018


Connecting with your child is a concern shared by most parents. Smiles and coos come naturally for so many parents of infants, but there are other points of connection that are more confusing and difficult to master. From feeding times and tummy time in infancy to family time and screen time as children grow, understanding what your child needs in order to feel connected to you overwhelms like a tsunami at times.

One point of connection becoming clear through scientific research has to do with screen time. Not just a child’s screen time, but the parent’s time spent in front of a screen. Dr. Tallie Baram and others, a group of researchers at the University of California at Irvine, demonstrated that “fragmented” parenting leads to negative emotional issues as children develop. Interactions with parents, i.e. smiles, conversations, etc., are necessary for children to develop the ability to enjoy activities and relationships.

Fragmented parenting is a phrase used to describe parents who are frequently distracted from those interactions with children under their care. Dr. Baram theorizes that if children lack the fullness of experience with caregivers at key points in development, they are more likely to engage in unhealthy pleasure seeking activities as  pre-teens and teenagers as well as other developmental setbacks through the years.

Of the distractions that lead to fragmented parenting, smart phone use is the most pervasive. Persistent notifications vie for our attention and have a psychological power all their own. Studies have already shown Facebook “likes” make us “feel better” and have addictive qualities of their own. If you find yourself checking your cell phone frequently, take some time to consider how you can temper your usage when you are with your children.

A few suggestions:

Leave your phone in another room unless you know someone will be calling.

Schedule social media checks or game time infrequently throughout the day, limiting time spent looking at social media and screens.

Inform your friends of your restricted social media use. Many people understand the need to limit time online, so posts like these have become more frequent in the past few years.

Of course these are not the only key in connecting with your kids, but the distractions of smartphones and social media can hold you from building a solid bond. If you have concerns or questions about your child’s well-being you can contact us at 918-745-0095.

Good luck making connections.

Written By Chris Hogue, MA, LMFT


Baram, T., et. al. (2012). Fragmentation and unpredictability of early-life experience in mental disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 169(9), 907-915.

Vasich, T. (2016). Put the cellphone away! Fragmented baby care can affect brain development. UCI News. Retrieved from 


Cell Phones and Teenagers

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Increasingly cell phones are mentioned as part of the complaints that bring families to therapy. Cell phones are abused by adults as well as children.  The focus of this article will concentrate on the complaints involving children and teens.

The high profile complaints involve parents who have discovered that their children have misused cell phones to transmit sexually oriented material including pictures.  According to several surveys, as many as one in five teens indicate they have sent sexually explicit messages.  Girls are almost twice as likely as boys to send “sexting” messages.

More often the complaints parents bring to therapy are that cell phone use, both voice and text messaging, consume the priorities of their teens.  The grades of these teens are often dropping, and parents describe having difficulty getting the attention of their children to important tasks and responsibilities.  As cell phone use increases, teens have less interest in extracurricular and family activities.

These problems too are twice as likely to be reported by the parents of girls.  According to cell phone records, 10,000 text messages or more per month are not uncommon.  Recent news articles have reported on parents who received $10,000. phone bills for their children’s cellular activities.

We have seen many examples of teenage girls who are in a family therapy session with their parents as we discuss this problem who insist they “must” answer their cell phone when it rings during the session.  They explain the call from a friend may be “an emergency.”   They explain that the kinds of emergencies they are referring to are friends who break up, had an argument with friends, caught a boyfriend cheating (by talking to another girl), got grounded by parents,  someone is rumored to be having sex with someone else, or friends who are cutting themselves, etc.  This drama can continue throughout the night and into the early morning hours.  Girls in their social network expect immediate response to each others’ latest news.  Studies report that rates of depression and other problems are higher with those whose cellular and internet use is high.

These problems often develop when parents provide cell phones to teens without clear rules and guidelines.  In this situation, teens decide with their peers what is appropriate.  Once these patterns are set, there may be considerable resistance to change.  We have seen cases in which a teen whose cell phone was taken away by parents then attempted suicide.  They later explained that they felt their whole world collapsed when they could no longer connect immediately with friends.

Cell phones use and computer networking can become addictive. An addiction occurs when any behavior becomes obsessive.  The addictive behavior interferes with other responsibilities such as school, work, family responsibilities, and previous interests.  As the behavior begins to cause problems, hurt and disappoint people, get negative feedback from employers or teachers, there is resistance to change and defense of the increasingly problematic behavior.  The addictive behavior becomes increasingly out of control.

Cell phone abuse without limits or supervision can be highly self-destructive.  When cell phones are used to transmit sexual pictures of underage girls including themselves, this is a felony criminal offense.

The best solution is anticipation and prevention.  Teens need guidance and supervision.  Before the problems begin or when early warning signs emerge, rules need to be established for appropriate cell phone use.  Teens must understand that cell phone use is a privilege and is provided conditionally.  These rules should cover appropriate hours of cell phone use, as well as limits to the appropriate number of cell phone minutes and any text message limits.  The best way to eliminate the temptation of answering incoming calls is to have a specific time in which the phone is turned off.  Cell phone providers will provide documentation of use.  Some cellular providers provide “parental control” features including the limitation of incoming a or outgoing calls during certain hours, except emergency calls.

Teens can also be taught cell phone etiquette regarding when it is inappropriate to answer calls, such as during family meals or during meetings, or in restaurants, etc.  It must be understood that not all calls should be answered.  Nearly all phones have voicemail.  Messages can be checked later when not disruptive to activities.  An important distinction needs to be made regarding what constitutes an “emergency.”  When a true emergency exists with friends, they should call 911, not friends.

Schools differ regarding their rules, but teens often violate such rules and get away with such violations if they keep their phone hidden.  Parents should support school rules regarding possessing or using cell phones during school hours.

Teens also must be taught about the seriousness of transmitting sexually oriented content, or accessing sexually oriented or pornographic sites.  Many cell phones have internet access.  A whole world of trouble and danger exists in these sites.

We want to trust our children and believe the best about them.  The research information we have suggests that many teens are not honest with their parents about their cell phone and computer use.  Often teens will deny viewing or sending sexually oriented content.  In tragic cases, parents have not learned the truth until after the discovery is too late.  Teens need supervision in the use of such a powerful tool which can be used so destructively.  Parents have the right and responsibility to check on their children’s activities.

Dale R. Doty, Ph.D.