What Is Distracted Parenting and Why Is It So Dangerous?

Distracted parenting makes children grow up thinking they're not important. Therefore, it's key to reflect and find a solution quickly.
What Is Distracted Parenting and Why Is It So Dangerous?
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 12 April, 2023

We don’t realize it, but it happens. Distracted parenting is becoming widespread in society and the medium and long-term effects will make us hold our heads in our hands. So, it’s time to wake up! But what exactly are we talking about? We’ll tell you more about it below.

Know what distracted parenting is

When we talk about distracted parenting, we’re referring to those parents who look more at their cell phones or other technology than at their own children. If their minds are immersed in the screen and their little ones require their attention, they’re capable of talking badly to their children just to continue what they can’t stop, which is looking at their screens.

Of course, this can happen occasionally, and in this case, it wouldn’t be distracted parenting. However, we’re referring to those situations that become habitual. That is, when parents only look at screens or look at them more than at their children. Then, their children call for their attention and don’t get it, and they end up feeling like they’re in the background of their parents’ lives.

Let’s say that distracted parenting is dominated by “smombiesor, in other words, people who won’t stop looking at their cell phones even when they walk down the street. This situation has become a serious problem. By not looking away from their cell phones, people can expose themselves to serious dangers or cause others to suffer the consequences of their distractions.

Adults are often concerned that our children are always connected, but we don’t look at what we do ourselves. We just impose without being a good example for our little ones.

The negative effects of distracted parenting

Of course, distracted parenting has negative effects that parents should be aware of in order to remedy as soon as possible. Otherwise, the consequences we’re going to discuss below will catch you by surprise and it’ll be too late.

A father looking at his cell phone while his daughter plays on a tablet rather than coloring.
Children don’t learn as much from your words as they do from your actions. That’s why it’s key to set an example when it comes to technology use.

It’s a bad example

Nowadays, it’s well known that using technology for too long affects the mind, especially in little ones. It makes no sense for us to tell our children to leave the screens when we don’t set limits regarding our own use.

There’s no emotional connection

You have to disconnect to connect, and this is a great reality. It’s essential to work on the emotional connection with ourselves and with our children to really connect with them.

Even if you’re in the same room with your children, with distracted parenting, the only thing children get is the feeling that you’re absent, even if you’re right in front of them. This will cause a loss of bonding and generate great emotional wounds. In this way, your little ones will also learn to disconnect from you.

Children feel displaced

Children feel displaced and think they’re not important to their parents. This can cause their self-esteem to suffer considerably. Also, they’re likely to seek attention by misbehaving.

Family communication disappears

Family communication is conspicuous by its absence when distracted parenting has taken over the home. You may not be aware that picking up your cell phone causes you to disconnect from your surroundings. Notifications are also a problem, especially when priority is given to seeing and responding to those messages rather than connecting with the people who are sitting right in front of you.

A mother looking at her cell phone while her daughter swings in a swing next to her.
In distracted parenting, parents are addicted to their cell phones, and what their children say or do doesn’t seem to interest them.

Tips to avoid distracted parenting

You need to disengage from technology and offer your children conscious and attentive parenting. They need to feel you’re present and know that they’re your priority. To do this, you can follow these steps:

  • Find spaces in the home where there’s no technology
  • Set limits on the use of technology at home and make it the same for everyone
  • During meal times, prohibit cell phones
  • Pay attention to your children, to life, and enjoy the little things
  • Do other activities that help you and your children connect

Reflect and act in order to change

If you can identify with the problem we’ve described in the above article, then you have to reflect and find a solution as soon as possible. It’s essential that you act so that you return to being a family in which the addiction to screens doesn’t predominate. Of course, achieving this is the duty of the adult.

It’s essential that technologies or screens don’t make you forget how important conscious parenting is. Keep in mind that distracted parenting will only make children grow up thinking that they’re not important. And this is something that will affect their self-esteem greatly and make them grow up with emotional problems.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bilbao, A. (2015) El cerebro del niño explicado a los padres. Editorial: Plataforma Actual

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.