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Parents: put down your cell phones at mealtime, say researchers

Posted On 2014 Mar 13
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A small study by US researchers reveals not enough parents engage with their kids at mealtime. ©AFP PHOTO BERTRAND GUAY

A small study by US researchers reveals not enough parents engage with their kids at mealtime.
©AFP PHOTO BERTRAND GUAY

(Relaxnews) – A new study notes that many parents remain glued to their cell phones while dining with their children, and it’s not going unnoticed by kids.

Researchers from Boston Medical Center studied 55 caregivers, mostly parents, while they ate at Boston-area fast food restaurants with their children in July and August 2013. All children were under the age of 10.

The research team found one in three parents stayed on their phones for almost the entire meal, resulting in less eye contact and interaction with kids.

Researchers also noted that children tried to get their parents’ attention whenever parents looked up from their phones.

“Caregivers who were highly absorbed in their devices seemed to have more negative or less engaged interactions with children,” said behavioral pediatrics expert Dr. Jenny Radesky.

Nearly 73% of parents/caregivers used their phones at least one time during each meal. Over 15% used their phones towards the end of the meal while children were still eating, and continued to do so as they left the restaurant.

Calling this the first study to examine how children behave while parents are on their phones, Radesky and her team believe much more work is required regarding parents’ use of such devices and how it affects children.

Findings were published in the April 2014 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

A wealth of research singles out shared family meals as being beneficial to children’s development. A study announced last week and published in the Journal of Development and Behaviorial Pediatrics found that regular family routines such as shared meals could have long-term positive effects on kids’ social-emotional health, while a 2013 survey conducted by the UK’s National Literacy Trust that found mealtime chatter can boost a child’s communication skills and confidence.

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