How to know if your smartphone is robbing attention from your child, and what to do about it

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9FM The Fish Family Morning Show

Photo by Dave Bezaire and Susi Havens-Bezaire via Flickr

Photo by Dave Bezaire and Susi Havens-Bezaire via Flickr

Two recent NPR headlines featured a lack of parent attention is a significant problem for kids. Experts explain that children need face to face interaction; it is a bonding experience that is critical to their cognitive development for building capacity to learn. The features also explored when parents pay more attention to the device than to the child there can be severe emotional consequences. Psychologist Catherine Steiner Adair explains that when your device has your attention over the children, the signal you send the child is “you don’t matter”.

Your child essentially translates inattention as rejection.

Most parents don’t realize that attention management is one of the most important cyber-safety factors for kids and families, because preoccupation with devices hinders the development of open parent-child communication, which is essential for parents to stay current on what is happening in their children’s cyber realms.


Signs that your smartphone is starving your child for your attention

  • You attend your child’s sports events and other activities but cannot talk about what happened because you missed it with your head down focused on the device.
  • You are in the same room texting one another.
  • Your children are acting out, irritable, hostile and uncooperative, there could be attention issues. Keep in mind, the attention a child craves is patient, kind attention – not angry, “I’m frustrated with your demanding my time” attention.
  • You do not have established first preferred communication mode is face-to-face for family time (meals, or other events).

Attention management tips

  • Do not always equate more time with more attention. Wherever you are, “be there.” If your children are present, be mindful about your presence with them.
  • Be conscious of whether or not you are giving your child undivided attention. Establish a hand signal so kids can interrupt politely when they need to ask you something or share some news.
  • Develop teamwork around chores.
  • Become interested in your child’s media and their observations and preferences.
  • Get “techie” with it. If you are not savvy about social media, find a tech savvy friend to help you set up an account and have your child show you how they use it (Facebook, MySpace, games).
  • Designate a time in the evening to turn off cyber technology making family members available for face time.

For more about preparing tweens and teens for responsible use of social media and texting, go to: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Friendly Strategies for Texting and Social Media.


Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.