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Is your smart phone ruining your relationships?

Jan. 12, 2016|800 views
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They say there’s nothing new under the sun, but there’s a new problem related to child care on the horizon that didn’t exist ten or twenty years ago. For the first time in history, cell phones have become so common, and we as users have become so accustomed to talking on them 24/7, that they’ve become the source of a new challenge to the health of growing infants.

 The problem has to do with distracted mothers who can’t put the phone down long enough to give their newborns the kind of focused attention they require. “Fragmented and chaotic” maternal care can affect a baby’s brain growth during crucial periods in the development of the brain and nervous system, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis. And that could lead to emotional problems further down the road. Possible outcomes include increased risks of depression, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior.

 Although investigators based their conclusions on research conducted on lab rodents, they firmly believe the same sorts of interrupted care may occur among mothers who can’t seem to put down their cell phones. Continual everyday interruptions, such as taking phone calls, surfing the web, or reading and sending text messages, could adversely affect a mother’s ability to provide her baby with the kind of undivided, attentive care young infants require.

 "It is known that vulnerability to emotional disorders, such as depression, derives from interactions between our genes and the environment, especially during sensitive developmental periods," said Dr. Tallie Z. Baram. "Our work builds on many studies showing that maternal care is important for future emotional health. Importantly, it shows that it is not how much maternal care that influences adolescent behavior but the avoidance of fragmented and unpredictable care that is crucial. We might wish to turn off the mobile phone when caring for baby and be predictable and consistent."

 It appears as if mammals require consistent, predictable, reliable care from their mothers during these crucial early developmental periods. Modern life is arguably making that sort of environment increasingly difficult to achieve. The message for new mothers is this: Put down your cell phone when caring for your baby. What’s merely rude behavior when in public is potentially damaging behavior when it comes to your baby. He or she deserves—and really needs—your undivided attention. 

 3 reasons to unplug:

1) Increased anxiety, fear of " not being connected"

2) Disconnecting from friends and family, finding exuses to not be social

3) Depression, comparing yourself to the lives of others is destructive  

J Molet, K Heins, X Zhuo, Y T Mei, L Regev, T Z Baram, H Stern. Fragmentation and high entropy of neonatal experience predict adolescent emotional outcome. Translational Psychiatry, 2016; 6 (1): e702 DOI: 10.1038/tp.2015.200