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Is technology getting between kids and their parents?

Is technology getting between kids and their parents?
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Many parents ask: Is the growing world of technology helping or hurting my child?

There's been a lot of talk about how technology affects American kids. One in 10 kids gets their first personal cellphone by the age of 5.

If we were to take an honest look at ourselves, we would probably find that we've responded to Facebook message or sent a tweet while spending time with our kids. While we may think it's not a big deal to stay connected, it may be causing a disconnect with our kids.

On any given Monday morning, Jamie Butow and her son have their routine while getting ready for school. Their day begins like most families with breakfast, coffee and technology.

After eating cereal and brushing his teeth, Joseph Gonzales is allowed to play on his computer for about 10 minutes before heading off to school. That’s when his mom, Jamie Butow, relaxes with a cup of coffee and checks her Facebook.

In this day and age, we have never been more connected to the world, but is that creating a disconnect in families?

We asked Joseph if he ever felt like his mom was spending more time with technology that him.

"No, I know she spends a lot of her time on the phone, but she spends most of her time with me," said Joseph.

The 10-year-old said he's lucky compared to how he sees other parents behave.

"They're walking home from school, and their parents are leaning against the fence looking at their phone, and the kid, they want to be near their parents, but their parents shoo them away," Joseph said.

A few years ago, Joseph's mom was a newspaper editor working 10 to 12 hour days. She was concerned she was missing out on her son's childhood, so she decided to make a change.

"I'm trying to really focus on him," said Butow. Now, she works from home as a social media specialist who also teaches classes in social media at Bakersfield College.

Because of her job, Butow is online more than most people but "unplugs" while spending time with her son.

"I really made that conscious effort to break away from the phone," Butow said. "The reality is it's not urgent. If there is an emergency, they'll call me."

Disconnecting is hard, because these devices are designed to get and hold our attention. But, all that attention on technology comes at a price, according to licensed family therapist Lowell Lueck.

Lueck said focusing on your phone and not your kids is a form of neglect.

"They don't see themselves as a priority," Lueck said. "The emotional scars are deep, because that is where the basic trust is established through the bond that exists between parent and child."

The therapist of 23 years said children will do anything to get their parents attention, including acting out with temper tantrums and negative behavior.

But, eventually they'll give up, and that's when trouble can start.

"Parenting is a full-time job. If you want to have a relationship with your child, you need to interact with your child," warned Lueck.

The battle now becomes about balance, because there is no turning back on technology now.

Butow said with a little effort and dedication, unplugging from technology can become as easy as checking your Facebook feed.

"You have to make that conscious decision to do it, to go offline to disconnect, for it to become a habit," Butow said.

You don't have to go cold turkey. Butow said you can follow simple steps to cut down on the digital distractions. You can change your settings on your phone or computer to only send your alerts and notifications every 30 minutes. That way, you won't be tempted to check your devices.
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