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Put your phone down or face alienating your kids

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It’s probably not hard to imagine a kid distracted by their phone over a family dinner, but according to a recent survey it’s actually often the parents with their eyes glued to a screen, and their kids having to ask them to put their phones away.

In a poll of over 2,000 11 to 18-year-olds in the UK, carried out by Digital Awareness UK and the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, 14% said their parents were online at meal times and 82% felt that meal times should be device-free.

And it’s not just meal times that are the problem. 22% said mobile use in general had stopped their families enjoying each other’s company and 36% had asked their parents to put down their phones at some point.

Of those who asked a parent to stop using their phone, 46% claim their parents didn’t, and 44% felt ignored and upset.

Dialing down our smartphone use

All of which paints a pretty bleak picture for mobile use among families, and suggests we may need to be more aware of how much we’re using our phones in the company of others – and how that use is affecting them.

You might not see it as a problem – and indeed in a separate survey of 3,000 parents only 10% did, but with 43% of parents claiming they spend too much time online it’s not hard to imagine this would be affecting family life.

Of course, it’s a two-way street, and in research carried out by the same groups last year 72% of pupils said they were online between 3 and 10 hours a day, with the figure rising even higher on weekends, and 47% worrying that it was impacting their sleep.

So maybe we all – parents and children alike – need to remember to put our phones away from time to time, great as they can be, and enjoy the company of the people around us.

You also might want to check out the best phones for kids.

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps.