NEW ORLEANS -- When children were asked about their parents' use of mobile devices, they said they were "sad, mad, angry and lonely."
A 4-year-old even called it a "stupid phone" not a smart phone. This was during research by psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair who wrote a book about parenting, called The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.
Dr. Jenny Radesky is a pediatrician specializing in child development, who, while in Seattle, noticed how often parents used their electronic devices, ignoring their children.
After relocating to Boston Medical Center, she did an observational study of 55 different groups of parents and young children while eating in fast food restaurants, and found that in 40 of the 55 groups, the parents were more involved with the electronic devices than the children.
Child experts say parents with too much screen time can harm their children's development, and children in some instances were even seen acting out.
"A lot of times negative attention is better than no attention at all. And so a lot of misbehavior in kids is because no one's paying attention to them," explained Dr. Kristopher Kaliebe, an assistant professor of psychiatry at LSU Health Sciences Center, who is board certified in child, forensic and general psychiatry.
Children are programed to need attention from parents. They develop by engaging in our facial gestures and voice.
"For the very young children, it's absolutely critical and it actually stimulates brain growth and their development, and they practice using their senses," he noted.
So why would parents rather watch YouTube than interact with the children they love? Because for survival, like our ancestors, we are programed to be stimulated seeing drama, conflict, sex and violence.
"If our ancestors had two people killing each other next to them, they'd pay attention. If we have two people killing each other on a screen, we are programed to pay attention. "We have this hyper reality, which is a fake reality, but it still turns on the same programs in us. And so you get connected to these fictional characters on a screen, just like you're connected to real people," said Dr. Kaliebe.
Some people already think young people don't have the social human skills as past generations because of social media, and experts say it's time to honor silence.
"You need to maybe take a media fast every weekend, or everyday, or a part of everyday, to break that connection," he recommends.
People are much more irritable when they are interrupted while texting or on E-mail, according to reports from psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, because the part of the brain being used for those tasks, has a sense of urgency and time pressure.