A number of studies have analysed the impact of smartphones and other gadgets on how families spend time together. One of these studies recently found that family members tend to spend more time “alone-together”, thanks to the use of mobile devices.
As per the study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, “alone-time together” is when children are at home with parents but they are alone.
“Our analysis has found that the overall family space has expanded, but it’s this alone-together time, when children and parents are in the same location but children are reporting that they are alone, which has made up the increase…There’s definitely evidence that the use of devices goes along with time on your own,” said Dr Killian Mullan, from the department of sociology at the University of Oxford. The study analysed a UK sample of around 5000 children and their parents.
In fact, another survey, the Ikea Play Report 2014, had revealed that Indian parents, who are anyway time-starved, felt guilty and stressed about not spending much time with their children.
With the increasing dependence on smartphones and other gadgets, both parents and children tend to spend more time alone with these devices. As per a 2018 report by analytics company App Annie, an Indian on an average spends up to three hours on apps daily, and has 78 apps on the phone, of which 43 are used monthly. The urban children in the country, aged between nine and seventeen, on the other hand, spend about four hours a day on the internet through mobile phones, as per a survey by Webwise. This, as Mullan’s research suggests, is causing further interruptions in the time parent spend with their child.
While parents need to reduce screen time, they also need to encourage kids to do the same by telling them about how it could impact their health. If a child feels he or she is alone at home, even among family, then parents need to take steps to engage with their children more. They can keep their phones aside for a while and participate in some indoor activities with their kids or plan a family trip from time to time, among other ways to ensure the child does not feel lonely.