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This one parental habit is eroding children's conversational skills

Posted May 18

Parents who want verbal kids may want to put down that smartphone, according to a new study of British primary school teachers. (Deseret Photo)

A new British survey has found that children entering primary school are less able to carry on conversations and teachers are blaming the cultural obsession with smartphones — among parents.

“We are having more and more children entering our early years stage with delayed speech and a lack of school readiness," one teacher said in the survey, conducted by teacher solutions service The Key. “I feel much of this is down to challenging family circumstances alongside the rise of mobile phones and other mobile technology, which means parents are more often to be seen on the phone than talking to their children.”

While the teacher responses were purely opinion and not based in science, the U.K. Daily Telegraph reported that the survey findings coincided with some troubling education statistics that could well be tied to parents being more engaged with phones than their children.

The U.K. government's annual State of Education report found that four-fifths of teachers reported concern over children's inability to verbally communicate in the classroom and that two-thirds of primary school-aged kids were found to be lacking in problem-solving skills.

While concern over the potential impact of smartphones on child development often focuses on the child's technology use, plenty of evidence suggests that children learn tech behaviors, like most behaviors, from their parents first.

A recent poll from Common Sense Media reported that some 50 percent of teens admitted they feel "addicted" to their phones, but they also reported noting how their parents used technology, including dangerous behaviors like texting while driving (something more than half of parents reported doing in the same poll).

Among the myriad of reasons to spend less time glued to a smartphone, one NPR report suggested that the best reason for adults might be their children's future.

"They learn by watching us how to have a conversation, how to read other people's facial expressions," Boston Medical Center pediatrician Jenny Radesky warned NPR of phone distraction while parenting. "And if that's not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones."

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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