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Parents—Not Teens—Are Overusing Devices

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Parents—Not Teens—Are Overusing Devices

When we think about the smartphone age, we undoubtedly picture a teenager, mindlessly yet furiously typing text messages at the dinner table, at school, and at work—all places where the use, and especially the overuse, of devices is not appropriate.

But what happens when parents have this same obsession with technology and constant contact?

Parents Overusing Devices

Steve Henn recently wrote a blog for NPR titled, “When Parents Are the Ones Too Distracted by Devices.” He describes an intervention of sorts from his eldest daughter. One night, when he was standing in the hallway checking his cellphone, his daughter decided she had enough. She lectured Henn and said, “Sometimes at night you’ll just sand around and…you’ll have your phone out and you’ll just type and you’ll just sand there…you’re just standing there in the middle of the hallway reading your texts and texting other people.”

Henn realized that his daughter, only 12 years old, was right.

Kids Feel Jealous

A book written by Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical and consulting psychologist at Harvard, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, touches on the generational trend in the overuse of devices. She was surprised when children of all ages—kids, teens, and young adults—expressed frustration, sadness, and anger when they had to compete with a cellphone for their parents’ attention, “Much like in therapy [when] you hear kids talk about sibling rivalry.”

Cellphones create a sense of urgency and excitement, Steiner-Adair adds, as there are always emails to write and new aps to explore. And while parents often set limits on devices for their children, setting limits on their own use is a completely different story.


Parents—like all teens, young adults, and adults alike—should dedicate certain hours of the day or days of the week to be device-free. Not only will you be setting a better example for your kids, but you will also be able to spend more time with your family and friends.

Limit your device use (outside of work-related matters) to your commute on public transportation to and from work. When you step in the door, try to focus on your loved ones. These people, after all, are receptive and responsive to emotions—your cellphone is not.