Hey mum and dad, get off the phone

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I recently found myself in a nearby school. By the entrance was a sign asking parents not to use their mobile phones in front of the children.

mobile phones, parenting, Sue Atkinds, mobile phone addicts, dad blog uk, dadbloguk.com, school run dad
Have you ever been so distracted by a smart phone or wireless device that you ignored your children? Many mums and dads have.

I thought this was fantastic. If you’ve ever done the school run, you’ll be familiar with the sight of mums and dads faffing about with smart phones.

I don’t think this behaviour sends the best message to our kids. I thought I’d speak to author and ITV parenting expert Sue Atkins for her opinion and to see what impact she thought it had on kids to have parents who are wired to the web 24/7 (You will find Sue’s website here).

Some background

Before that, however, a little background. When I saw that fantastic notice pinned on the wall of the school, I also felt a pang of guilt. I can’t deny that when hanging around in the playground, waiting for Helen to finish playing with her friends at the end of the school day, I would often answer a few emails, send a few text messages and so on.

While I admit I’m not perfect, I’ve witnessed much worse. Last week Helen went to an after school activity and for an entire hour I waited outside the school hall. During that time, one of the mums spent every minute on her smart phone, her younger child next to her playing with an iPad. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but it didn’t sit easily with me.

I’m sure many of us have seen the Joey Salads video that was doing the rounds on Facebook the other week. If you haven’t, Salads, a well-known YouTube prankster, pretended to abduct a child from a play park while his father was distracted by his mobile phone.

This particular stunt took place with the full consent of the mother because she was fed up with the dad’s habit of paying more attention to his phone than his kid. I don’t approve of such things and felt the description of it being a “social experiment” was weak.

In my opinion, it was a cheap way to gain YouTube views. Even so, the sight of a lone parent, sat on a bench in a park with their shoulders hunched, staring at a phone while their kids play is all too common.

We can’t ignore technology because it is such a major part of our lives. Shouldn’t we, as parents, be much better at managing it?

What Sue Atkins said

Sue Atkins, mobile phones, smart phones,
Author and ITV This Morning parenting expert Sue Atkins.

The first point Sue makes is that our own behaviour is a major influence on our kids. She said:

“We are role models in everything we do and say. If an old woman cuts us up on a roundabout and we say ‘silly old woman shouldn’t be driving’ we are not teaching tolerance. If kids see us on tech 24/7 we cannot say to them that they’re spending too much time on it.”

Sue went further still, stressing that parents, distracted by technology, are putting their offspring in genuine physical danger. She said it wasn’t unheard of for mums and dads to push prams into the road while using phones. Sue said this is a complaint she often hears from taxi drivers.

And what of children seeing mum and dad engrossed on their mobile devices all the time? What impact does it have on them? Sue gives a great example of how times have changed, and not for the best.

“I see mums in the playground [I’m sure Sue meant dads too!]. They’ve not seen their children all day and what happens? They run out to them at the end of the day and they’re on their on their phones.

“I remember when my dad use to turn up to collect me, he always used to come on a Wednesday, I’d look out for his old banger and he’d be there with his arms outstretched.”

So how does a parent recognise they have a problem? At this point Sue is remarkably candid. She confides that she had to stop herself from using wireless devices at night time as it was disturbing her sleep.

With her confession made, she remarked: “If you’re getting short tempered, jittery checking your phone last ting at night or first thing in the morning, I’d say you had a problem.

“Try going cold turkey or charging your phone downstairs. Do you really need to be on Instagram 24/7?

Sue ends by saying: “Parents should be role models in how they use technology.

Changing my own behaviour

Having seen that sign in the nearby school, I have changed my own behaviour. I’ve made a conscious decision to either leave my phone in the car or not take it at all when on the school run.

I know my behaviour wasn’t that bad, but I knew I could do better. Sue is absolutely right, I should be a role model in how I use tech and that applies to any parent.

What do you think about mums and dads using technology around their kids? Is it a major problem? Do you see it happening too much? Have you ever witnessed a distracted mum or dad pushing a pram into the road? Please do leave a comment below with your thoughts.


You will find Sue Atkins on Twitter and also on Facebook. Word of advice: do wait until the kids are in bed or at school before you check Sue’s social media channels. They don’t need to see you using social media when you could be spending time with them, do they?

DIY Daddy Blog

15 thoughts on “Hey mum and dad, get off the phone”

  1. Another stick to beat parents with.

    I’ve not seen anyone push their child beneath a car because they were distracted but I’ve seen a hell of a lot of drivers not indicate, drive too fast, not stop at pedestrian crossings and so on. Including taxis.

    Yes, usage should be sensible but let’s not judge when we don’t know what people are dealing with. They’re not all Instagramming their lunch.

    1. I may have to agree to disagree with you on this one. We can all be using our phones to check on ill relatives or running a business etc. How healthy is it, however, for kids to see mum and dad constantly checking their phones? I’m not going to criticise a parent for taking a few minutes to check their messages etc. but there is a time and a place and tech use needs to be limited for both parent and child.

      I’ve had a lot of people comment on twitter, instagram and this post who have recognised they are distracted by tech and are taking action to the issue (the irony of that sentence is not lost on me!). I find it a slightly odd argument the writer of that Huff Post piece makes. If a child is crying out for you, that’s the time to pay them attention.

      I like your comment though, about drivers nearly running pedestrians down etc. I have seen a lot of this.

      Alas, what I’ve also seen is mums and dads on their mobile phones while in their cars on the school run. There’s a particular issue with slow moving traffic at my daughter’s school and it’s something I see every single school day.

  2. I went on hols recently and made a conscious effort to leave my phone in the room all day and in the eves. I’m glad I did it. Since being at home I try to leave it at home (though someone told me off for that (!)) if we go for a stroll. I also try to leave it upstairs when I am down etc. I know I have a bit of an addiction and these small things have helped. I think just leaving it in your bag or in the car on the school run is a great idea. I want my daughter to have my full attention. xx #thatfridaylinky

    1. I’m getting much more disciplined myself. The phone stays at home when it’s child / daddy time. It just has to be done for everyone’s benefit. I want my kids to have my full attention and its easy to slip into “phone land” if you aren’t careful.

  3. Jo - Pickle & Poppet

    I think that it is important to limit times on technology for both adults and children. I do see parents on their phones at what I think are very important times – picking kids up from school. When I see parents pushing pushchairs and texting I find it frustrating. I do think that when you are out with your children you should not be on social media – take a photo put the phone away.
    My husband read a stat the other day that made him think and that was that 90% of the time you spend with your child will happen before they are 12. #ThatFridayLinky

    1. That is a fascinating stat. I’m already two thirds of the way through my 90% with my eldest! It is difficult to tell a child to get away from a screen if you are always attached to one so you have to moderate your behaviour. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. A really interesting article. I am very conscious to avoid tethering myself to my mobile, particularly social media as you can quickly find yourself swallowed up with all kinds of nonsense. I love the 90% stat. I agree its not for us to judge other parents, but I did find it difficult watching a two-year-old playing an age inappropriate battle game on an iPad the other week – his competence level was incredible – however, his parents didn’t engage with him once. The advice above is something we should all have in our minds. #ThatFridayLinky

    1. I dread to think what game the child was playing. I have heard of either year olds playing World of Warcraft. That’s bad enough.

  5. Oldhouseintheshires

    I love this post! I’m the teacher watching some parents ignore their children when I let them out at the end of the day. It’s the same parents every time…….they haven’t said even said hello to their offspring. It makes me so sad! That child will have so much to tell their parent about their awesome day at school but they don’t even bother anymore as they know they will not be listened to. I’ve even had a child tell me that their parents love their phones more than them……put them away people! Before you know it, you child will be grown and you will not know them. (Most parents don’t do this btw) #fabfridaypost

    1. Ouch, telling you they love their phones more than their offspring? That’s unreal. So, so sad. I think us parents do need to be challenged to moderate our behaviour sometimes.

  6. It’s an interesting dilemma, I try not to and succeed most weeks on a Sunday touching my phone at all, I confess I’m guilty while waiting for girls to finish school I go on my phone sometimes. Saying that our upcoming holiday is phone free holiday super post Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

    1. Yeah, it’s a dilemma isn’t it? I try top keep away from my phone when with family too. Doesn’t always work but I try my best.

  7. I have to confess that I am that parent whose younger child sits with an iPad while waiting. Jessica has ballet on a Friday night and we have to sit and wait for her. It’s a short window of time where Sophie gets to have iPad time and I catch up on emails. I do admit to being distracted by technology at times during the day and I’m trying to get better at putting the phone down more. We do get out and about a lot though and I do make a conscious effort to focus on the moment and not get distracted. I don’t use the phone at all on the school run though.

    1. This blog post has been fascinating Louise. It’s really divided opinion betweenthose who think questioning mobile usage is judgmental and those who say: “Yup, I get distracted but I’m taking action to stop this happening.” Like many others, you’re clearly on top of this.

  8. That 90% statistic is eye-opening. There are times when I’d rather my kids left me alone, but in the light of this new information I’m going to make more of an effort to appreciate them, at all times!

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