Parents distracted by phones give children less attention: Psychologist

Small children are increasingly in competition for the attention of their parents with the small screens of mobile devices.

"I think there is a lot of concern about the direction we are going in," says USF pediatric psychologist Heather Agazzi, Ph.D.

Pew Research shows 36% of parents say they spend too much time on their cell phone. Half of teens say their parents or caregivers are distracted during conversations by cell phones.

Psychologists, like Agazzi, worry distracted parents give less child supervision.

"In the short term, it could lead to small accidents or even bigger accidents. Is it really that important to get an update on your Twitter feed, to get that push notification? Is it as important as your child and what you’re doing in the moment?"

She says less personal interaction with smaller, younger children can have lasting effects well into adulthood.

"Learning that it’s important to establish eye contact, to use different facial expressions, to sit and listen when someone is speaking to you. If a caregiver is checking their phone 200 times a day, to them that’s just normal, that’s just what you do," says Agazzi.

She says families should set boundaries and disconnect at the dining table.

"When we are eating, we put our phones aside. That way we can kind of be with our daughter, we can talk about our day, what things are going on," she said.

Due to the rapid pace at which technology is changing, Agazzi says it’s been difficult for researchers to keep up and study the impacts.

She says her biggest fear is the creation of an entire generation who think it’s completely normal to sit around a dinner table with everyone on their phone.