Some of the benefits of internet connectivity are the convenience of instant communication and remote office work. This has become increasingly helpful during the Covid19 pandemic where remote offices (aka working from home) saved many jobs, and helped millions to maintain connection with others. It has however come at a relational cost to many as our attention toward our devices have taken priority over the people in our immediate presence.
Working from home has meant that we have removed the boundary of work and home. And while “schlumpfy” below and formal up top for the Zoom meetings is both comfy and convenient, the attention we give our electronic devices has also come at the expense of our relational priorities, and in may of those cases our partners and children have been most affected.
In 2015 (BCE Before the Covid Era, not Before the Common Era or BC Before Christ to avoid confusion), AVG® Technologies N.V, the online security company™ conducted research for more than 200 million monthly active users, examined children’s perceptions of their parents’ mobile device use. The impact of their findings is rather astounding.
33% felt parents spent equal or less time with them, than on their devices
54% felt parents checked their devices too often.
36% felt parents are distracted by their device during conversations. This meant that parents 1) did not make eye contact while conversing, 2) did not pay attention to what was being said and 3) could not recall or repeat what the child had communicated to them. The consequence of this is that 32% of the children felt unimportant to their parents.
Feeling unimportant as a child equates to feelings of rejection, detachment and inferiority. These destroy motivation, confidence, the ability to try and fail and to persevere and succeed. Feeling unimportant re-enforces the thoughts of
“I am not good enough!”
“I am not valuable!”
“I don’t matter!”
“I don’t count!”
These thoughts erode the sense of worth of a child and lead to depression. Depression can lead to hopelessness which can lead to suicidal tendencies. These thoughts act out in anti-social behavior in the attempt to garner attention, to be seen. They can also act out in isolation or shying away, hiding so as not to be seen. Ultimately they preserve deep roots of pain that if not healed will influence every decision, defence and coping mechanism and every relationship. This pain also establishes the fertile ground for addiction.
In my personal journey of healing from addiction, I can attest to the development of this pattern of thought. I can testify to my own story and have heard countless other stories from men and women in addiction recovery whose initial pain was rejection as a child.
We can help heal protect our children and prepare them for the world through avoiding this pain. We can help them through being present, being engaged and being interested in their lives. That might mean we need to look up from our screens, make eye-contact, prioritise them and just maybe we will see an increase of joy return to their lives and ours.