Do you spend more quality time on your phone than you do with your partner and kids?

Or have you tried to organize a family activity, only to find everyone else is more interested in staring intently at their phone?

Whether you know it or not, you’ve been the victim of phubbing. Which, according to new research, is slowly eroding your relationship with your family.

What Is Phubbing?

“Phubbing” is defined as the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.  And it’s becoming a big problem.

Phone addiction is a real thing. And just like any other addiction, it can put a huge strain on family relationships.

Phubbing isn’t good for anyone. The person being phubbed feels hurt and rejected, while the phubber is seen as less attentive and caring.

The saddest part is the hurt and distraction go both ways. Kids get hurt when they’re phubbed by their parents, so they turn to screens for a distraction and end up becoming phubbers themselves.

It can be a vicious cycle.


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9 Ways Phubbing Is Hurting Your Family


1. Stops You From Being Present

How can you be in the present moment with your family when you’re constantly distracted by your phone?  Short answer, you can’t.

Your kids grow and develop at an astonishing rate. If you’re always looking at a screen, you’ll miss moments that may never come again. This hurts you, and your family.

2. Creates Distance And Blocks Intimacy

If you’d rather spend time scrolling through Instagram than talking to your partner, you’re creating distance in your relationship. Whether you intend to or not.

Research shows that couples who report high levels of phubbing also report low levels of marital satisfaction. Particularly if you bring your phone to bed with you.

Related: Sex After Kids: Are You Lovers Or Roommates?

Nighttime should be for discussing the day’s events, snuggling and maybe even a little romance…not checking emails.

Phubbing puts up a wall between you and your partner. If you don’t do something about it, overtime that wall can become insurmountable and you may find that intimacy has left the building.

3. Promotes Procrastination And Avoidance

Many people might not be aware of this, but smart phones are often used as a procrastination tactic. If there’s a difficult task looming that you need to tackle, but maybe aren’t excited about or don’t know how to approach, scrolling through your phone can be an easy way to stall.

Also, if you want a way out of a difficult or awkward conversation, finding something to look at on your phone may be a way to avoid talking to someone.

Trouble is, these difficult tasks and conversations you’re avoiding don’t go away, they linger. And phubbing just hurts you more in the long run.

4. Erodes Boundaries

Understanding when it’s time to put the phones away is all about setting boundaries.

Setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries is an important part of any healthy family dynamic.

How you manage phone use will ultimately pill over into other rule and boundary issues.

5. Sends The Wrong Message About Communication To Your Kids

It’s important to teach kids the value of quality communication. And by quality, we mean actually TALKING.

If you have a home environment where there’s a lot of phubbing going on, both on the adults’ and the kids’ side of the equation, the message being sent is that texting and IM-ing are more important than real-life conversation.

We’re pretty sure that’s NOT the message you want your kids to receive.

6. Phubbing Factors Into Raising Socially-Awkward Kids

Another side effect of families that spend too much time on their devices is it impacts your kids development of important social skills.

Children need to see you talking and interacting with each other. It’s how they learn effective communication.

Related: Are You Raising Impatient Entitled Kids?

If they always see you and your partner hunched over a device, the takeaway is that this behavior is normal.

Your children won’t pick up the subtle social cues they need to grow up to be effective communicators.

7. Reduces Quality Family Time

People are always saying they want to spend more “quality family time”, but then they don’t put their phones away and end up being more distracted than engaged.

Just like there is no crying in baseball, there’s no phubbing in quality time.

8. Can Make Family Feel Unimportant

If your partner is more interested in their phone than having a conversation with you, that can lead to you feeling unimportant and unwanted.

The same thing goes for your kids. Where you focus your attention shows them where your priorities are.

If your focus is on your phone, your kids can start to feel unwanted in your world too.

9. Hurts Your Family’s Mental Health

A recent research study on the effects of phubbing found that the practice threatens four “fundamental needs”; belongingness, self-esteem, meaningful existence and control, by making phubbed people feel excluded and ostracized.

This may be particularly harmful to your family’s mental state, researchers say, because phubbing happens all the time.

How To Stop Phubbing

If you, your partner, or even your kids are chronic phubbers, you can stop the madness.

Create and follow strict technology rules, like putting phones away during mealtimes, family activities, etc. This will help you form new habits.

Practicing other attention based practices, like meditation for parents or mindfulness for children, can also help retrain your brain’s attentional capacity.

Related: Six Simple Mindfulness Exercises For Kids

And you know what the number one enemy of phubbing is? Communication!

Take the time to talk to your partner and kids about how phubbing makes you feel. If you’re guilty of phubbing, have them do the same for you.

Don’t let devices stand in for real person-to-person discussions. If you’re a little out of practice, try out some conversation starters at dinner to get everyone talking.

Also consider making the bedroom a phone-free zone. There are better ways to spend your intimate time together than scrolling through emails and Facebook.

Phone use is contagious! But so is not using your phone. If you make it a habit to put your phone on silent and put it away during family time, your partner and kids will see this behavior and it can start a domino effect.

Before you know it, you’ll be back to spending real quality time with your family…phone free.


7 Signs That You, Or Someone You Love, Is A Phubber:

  1. Has to keep their phone out and close to them at all times.
  2. Keeps conversation with family short because their attention is more focused on their device.
  3. Checks phone whenever there is a break in conversation.
  4. Takes non urgent calls when out with family or friends.
  5. Uses their phone as a distraction to avoid doing work or household tasks.
  6. If watching TV, checks their phone during every commercial break or slow moment.
  7. Will break from a conversation if they get a text message or alert.


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