What Is Phubbing? Parents Warned About Taking Part In Trend In Front Of Their Kids

Parents are being warned about 'phubbing' in front of their kids.
Credit: Alamy

Parents are being warned about ‘phubbing’ in front of their kids.

There are numerous things most people know they shouldn’t do in front of children.

Whether it’s engaging in arguments or swearing – it’s best to keep little ones shielded from such behaviour.

But there’s another new phenomenon that parents are being warned not to do when their kids are around.

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The number of children and teenagers having access to electronic devices – such as smartphones and tablets – has increased drastically over the last decade.

Due to the increase, many of them are unfortunately exposed to the dark side of the internet, where they might be influenced by unhealthy advice.

One trend that has had an impact on Gen Z’ers is ‘legging legs’ – which TikTok has started to ban.

The viral sensation raises concern in young women about how their legs look in their leggings.

However, many TikTokers have pointed out that this is essentially a repackaging of the harmful disorder of ‘thigh gaps’.

Now parents have been warned to keep their out of another dangerous trend called phubbing.

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What is phubbing?

‘Phubbing’ is a term that refers to the act of snubbing or ignoring someone in favour of using a mobile phone or other electronic devices.

It occurs when a person becomes engrossed in their phone, diverting their attention away from the people or activities happening around them.

Phubbing can be seen as a form of social disconnection, as it can disrupt face-to-face interactions and diminish the quality of relationships.

It is a behaviour that has become increasingly common in today’s digital age, where smartphones and constant connectivity play a significant role in people’s lives.

According to a recent survey, nearly 70% of parents admit feeling distracted by their phones when spending time with their children.

How does phubbing impact children?

This, known as parental phubbing, has become a concern for both kids and parents.

However, experts suggest that it’s not the use of phones itself that poses a problem, rather, it’s how parents utilise them.

Mary Alvord, PhD, co-author of ‘Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens’, emphasises the importance of undivided attention from parents when children need it.

She tells Very Well Mind: “I think the big question here is… are parents giving undivided attention when their kids need it?

“Or are they shooing them away more than usual? It happens to everybody sometimes. The key is how much.”

A woman left her husband after learning that he called her 'SWMBO' in texts to friends.
Parents are being warned about ‘phubbing’ in front of their kids. Credit: Alamy

While occasional distractions happen to everyone, the key lies in assessing the frequency and extent of parental preoccupation.

Mobile phone usage has become a societal norm, with a staggering 97% of Americans owning mobile phones.

This widespread reliance on smartphones for alarms, scheduling, social connections, and more has created a sense of dependence among parents.

Many express that they feel unable to go anywhere without their phones, highlighting the challenge of detaching from these devices.

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While phones undeniably offer convenience and support in today’s fast-paced world, it becomes crucial to identify and address situations where parental phubbing leads to the neglect of children’s needs.

Children thrive in supportive environments where they receive their parents’ attention and care.

Realistically, parents cannot be fully attentive to their children every hour of the day.

Therefore, when they do have quality time together, it is vital that parents engage and focus on their children.

When kids perceive that their parents are ignoring them, they experience genuine emotional pain.

Felice Martin, MS, NCC, LPC, CPCS, NeuroCoach+ NeuroLeader at Behavioral Health Associates of Georgia, LLC, explains that the pain of being ignored affects children both physically and psychologically. Are you guilty of snubbing people to go on your phone? We hate to be the one to break it to you, but it sounds like you’re a phubber 😳📱 Keep watching for the cure! #socialmediaaddiction #phubbing #socialmediadetox #digitalwellbeing #phoneaddiction ♬ Originalton – 🎼🎧🎼

She says: “Parents rely on the convenience of smartphones (i.e., alarms, book reading, scheduling, news, social connections, etc.), thus creating a sense of dependence.

“In fact, we often hear parents’ comment that they ‘can’t go anywhere’ without their phone.”

Research states that the brain does not differentiate between different types of pain but simply signals distress to the body and mind.

Phubbing can make a child feel inadequate, lonely, rejected, and dismissed, potentially leading to anxiety or depression.

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Consequently, children may resort to negative or positive attention-seeking behaviours and even replicate their parents’ phone-centric behaviour.

Research further indicates that when parents prioritise their phones over listening to their children, it can exacerbate feelings of depression.

Emotionally neglected children may struggle with anxiety, experience academic difficulties, engage in substance abuse, and face suicidal tendencies.

What’s the solution to phubbing?

Recognising the potential repercussions, parents must be mindful of their phone usage and the message it conveys.

Parents are their child’s primary teachers, and managing their own mental health is vital in ensuring their child’s well-being.

However, it is challenging given that people check their phones an average of 60 times per day.

Despite the persistent use of phones, experts suggest practical safeguards to ensure quality time with children.

The most apparent solution is for parents to put their phones aside when spending time with their children, especially during meaningful conversations.

Phone Texting
Phubbing can have a negative impact on relationships. Credit: Alamy

Dr Alvord recommends providing undivided attention and even leaving the phone in a different room if necessary.

“You need to put that phone down, especially with teens,” she explains.

“When they are willing to talk to you…you need to give them undivided attention.

“This means you may need to put the phone in a different room.”

Parents can also utilise features such as ‘Do Not Disturb’ or silencing their phone ringers to minimise distractions caused by notifications.

Establishing phone-free zones, like a basket for phones during dinner, can significantly reduce interruptions and enhance family time.

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Designating specific areas in the house as no-phone spaces creates a safe environment for quality interactions without phone interference.

Setting a timer for phone usage can also be effective.

Felice Martin says parents can inform their children that after an hour, they will receive uninterrupted time together, serving as an incentive for both parties.

“We can’t escape the digital age; however, we can manage how we engage with the digital age.

“I encourage parents to put their phones down when communicating with their children.

“Eye contact matters and lets the child know they are valued.”

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Written by Cal Gaunt

Cal is a former content editor at IGV who specialised in writing trending and entertainment news. He previously worked as a news reporter at the Lancashire Telegraph and earned an NCTJ in Sports Journalism.