CNN Parenting

Dear kids, sorry for 'just checking' my phone

Story highlights

  • When I put the phone down or closed the computer, I engaged with my kids more by default
  • Kids feel neglected when their parents are on devices, and there is an emotional toll, research shows

Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices. Share your insight at the CNN Parenting Facebook page.

(CNN)Children, can you stop what you're doing and listen to me for a moment? ... Thank you.

I wanted you to know that I've been giving you two a lot of thought lately and to tell you how much I love you. I know I say that all the time, but it's important that you really -- one sec -- sorry, I just need to check that message on my phone first ... Gimme one more sec ... OK, right, sorry. What was I saying?
Oh, right. I was saying how much I value you above all things. You give my life purpose and meaning and -- sorry, hold on, I just need to reply to one quick thing for work ... and now I'm back.

    Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices. It considers old problems in new ways, and new problems that previous generations didn't face.

    It's about that phone, actually. Because, as you know, for a little experiment, I gave up being on it and my laptop in front of you for a month. For the most part, I was pretty good, right? I closed the computer or put down the phone when you came into a room. And when I absolutely had to be on, I told you what I was doing and why I needed to do it then.
    You didn't seem to notice one way or the other. But for me, it was an eye-opening experience. It made me realize how often I'm staring at a screen while talking to you, how often my attention is diverted from the most important people in my life in favor of whatever bits of information happen to be on those devices at the time.
    And I noticed that when I put the phone down or closed the computer, I engaged with you more by default. I looked into your eyes while we talked, gave you my full attention. Instead of saying "What?" and asking you to repeat yourself, I heard you the first time, and we laughed or shared something or worked out whatever was on your mind.