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Quality Time Versus Quantity Time: Why Modern Parents Need to Switch Off Their Phones

Quality Time Versus Quantity Time: Why Modern Parents Need to Switch Off Their Phones

As I race from the school run to the babysitter and from ballet lessons to football practice, my phone is ringing constantly and I know that I have at least 40 e-mails and phone calls to return.  But Friday is my day with the kids so I pretend to ignore all this work — at least until I am sitting at the sidelines of a football game. Then I pull out my smartphone and get some things done. Nobody knows the difference, right? Sure, I saw the goal you scored.

Then on the way home from the game, we stop for a quick bite at a fast food joint as a treat to us all on our only proper day together. When I’m there and the kids are talking amongst themselves, I munch on my burger, sip my Diet Coke and return a few more e-mails. Everybody’s happy. I have gotten all my jobs done. I have gotten the kids from all the point A’s to all the point B’s. We have had fun. We have eaten. This is the way life is now, right? Maybe, but it’s not how it should be. Multiple research studies are now showing that these habits are not conducive to our children’s academic success, intellectual development, social and emotional skills and much more.

There’s more to being together than physical presence

little girls whispering
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    A recent study published in the medical journal “Pediatrics,” conducted by a team from Boston Medical Center, found that parents who use their smartphones in fast food restaurants talk less to their kids than parents who do not use such phones. One third of all parents observed used their phone for the entire meal, never once interacting with their child.

    This is bad news for intellectual development because one of the single best predictors of intellectual advancement is the amount of face-to-face conversation kids get with their parents. It is also important to know that according to psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley in their book “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” it is close to impossible to make up for lost time after the early years of life.

    In their research, Hart and Risley had three main findings. The first was that the variation in children’s IQ scores and language abilities is relative to the amount parents speak to their children. Their second main finding was that children’s academic successes at ages nine and 10 are attributable to the amount of talk they hear from birth to age three. The third is that parents of advanced children talk significantly more to their children than parents of children who are not as advanced. So the implications of these findings from the Boston Medical Center team for our children’s welfare may not be so heartening.

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    We now live in a fast-paced world in which people are always remotely contactable and in which there is very little room for “down time,” even when we are technically “off the clock.” So if parents are frequently or almost continually responding to e-mails, voice mails, SMS texts, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn alerts during their “quality time with the kids,” the long-term consequences may be felt in terms of reduced intellectual development, and in terms of the effects of such poor interpersonal experiences on emotional and social development.

    The importance of talking to your child

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      If we consider Hart and Risley’s research, it is clear that by increasing early language interaction and increasing the number of words spoken to a child, we may be able to significantly impact on the child’s IQ and academic success even several years later. And while it is not yet certain that this is the case, it is increasingly certain that reducing the social interaction we have with children increases the risk of a whole range of problems during intellectual development. We now know that the parents of less intellectually advanced children have had less language interactions with their children. So the clear message to parents is that our face-to-face verbal interaction with our kids is at least as important as the emotional bonds we form with them. Simply talking to our children often and with our full attention will increase their chances scholastically, and failing to do so may actually reduce their scholastic achievement.

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      All of this is not to say that every parent should abandon their smartphone or indeed let go of the multitude of responsibilities of the modern work place. But it does suggest that parents need to be more aware of the effects of communication devices on their relationships with their children. Setting boundaries for their use is a good place to start in curbing their negative effects, but this may involve some hard choices about our family values and what we expect from our careers and how they dovetail with what we want for our families.

      The importance of eating meals together without distractions

      family eating

        Interestingly, it turns out that the even if it has to be in silence, it is a good idea for families to eat as many meals together as possible, undistracted by TVs and mobile devices. The more meals a family sits down to together during the week, the better the outcomes for the kids mentally, emotionally, and intellectually.

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        The Purdue University Center for Families (CFS) has produced several reports on the benefits of families eating together. The positive outcomes include better-developed vocabularies, higher reading scores, better school grades and overall better long-term academic outcomes. Indeed, eating meals together was a better predictor of school success than coming from a two-parent family, which has long been considered more advantageous for school results than coming from a one-parent family.

        The CFS at Purdue has also found that children of families who eat together are less likely to smoke, drink and take drugs. As if that was not enough, these kids also have better conversational skills, are more courteous, and feel more connected to their families. Finally, the CFS reported on the importance of family meals for promoting healthier eating habits in children and reducing their chances of suffering with eating disorders and obesity (see www.cfs.purdue.edu/CFF/publications/publications.html).

        These findings may serve as a reminder for modern parents to slow down, switch off the phone and pay attention to the little people in front of you. It has never been more clear that what kids need to thrive is not just “quantity time” with their parents, but genuine quality time.

        family watching trains

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          Last Updated on March 13, 2019

          How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

          How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

          Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

          You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

          Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

          1. Work on the small tasks.

          When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

          Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

          2. Take a break from your work desk.

          Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

          Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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          3. Upgrade yourself

          Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

          The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

          4. Talk to a friend.

          Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

          Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

          5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

          If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

          Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

          Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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          6. Paint a vision to work towards.

          If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

          Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

          Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

          7. Read a book (or blog).

          The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

          Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

          Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

          8. Have a quick nap.

          If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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          9. Remember why you are doing this.

          Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

          What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

          10. Find some competition.

          Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

          Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

          11. Go exercise.

          Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

          Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

          As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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          Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

          12. Take a good break.

          Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

          Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

          Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

          Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

          More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

          Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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