It’s something we all know. Busy lives and technology are intruding on crucial family time.

We see the consequences around us in the rise of the unruly brat and a new lost generation of depression-prone adolescents. After all, if your parents don’t care enough to spend time with you, it’s hard to feel worthwhile.

The latest survey to sound the warning is from Virgin Holidays, which showed parents are spending less than eight hours a week of quality time with their children, on average; that breaks down to only 39 minutes per weekday, rising to just over an hour on Saturdays and Sundays.

Reasons parents gave for neglecting family time included that “the children are watching TV” or “the children are playing computer games”.

Who is the parent here? It is a woeful tale with worrying implications for the future.

A generation of children who are virtually bringing up themselves, with the help of whatever is beaming at them through their screens.

The latest survey comes off the back of another poll last year from the British Family and Parenting Institute, showing the number one thing children want is more time with their parents.

Six out of 10 kids complained their parents didn’t spend enough time with the family. Why aren’t we listening?

The one thing children need more than anything else is parental attention. It can be hard for busy parents, especially with taciturn teenagers whose idea of conversation is a sarcastic grunt.

But psychologists are warning we’re raising a generation of “Tamagotchi Kids” – children brought up by computers and TVs and smart phones.

With parents on their laptops while watching TV in one room and the children engrossed in their own digital entertainments in another, it can be easy to spend an entire evening communing less with your offspring than you did with the guy you bought your coffee from on the way to work.

It is really a facsimile of family life when everyone is isolated contentedly in their own activity.

You might be in the same house with your children but you are not doing your job as a parent. You’re not imprinting your values, imparting their worth, setting boundaries and teaching them how to be a good person.

Adolescent psychiatrist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg coined the term “Tamagotchi Parenting” after the electronic game that became a craze in Japan, in which you pressed buttons to feed and water a virtual pet.

He has been concerned about the rise of remote control parenting because it denies children the boundaries they crave. They become isolated from their parents by an “emotional firewall“, reserving their emotional relationships for friends, with whom they are permanently connected, electronically.

A Year 7 teacher once told me she saw a difference between the Generation Y she had been teaching and the new digital natives, the 12- and 13-year-olds of Generation Z coming through.

Born roughly since the mid-1990s, Gen Z is born virtually with a smart phone in their hands. They are the first post-technological revolution generation and their default reality is radically different from anything before.

But this teacher sees the dark side of her charges’ facility with digital technology. So immersed are they in their screens that she fears they are losing the ability to read facial expressions, a prerequisite for empathy.

Carr-Gregg predicts a “decline in civic connectedness and … social capital” as a consequence.

Parenting is not like a My Three Sons episode where Big Daddy draws the children around for the latest sermon from the mount.

All the little incidental interactions when you are spending time with children add up to a coherent moral fabric with which they can fashion their character.

Mothers I know often say the best time to connect with their sons is in the car while ferrying them to sport, when they open up about their lives, comfortable with the parallel nature of the interaction, and mum too busy looking at the road to turn her laser eyes to his soul.

A full-time mother of nine children I know always makes a point of having a cup of tea alone after her husband has gone to bed so that any child who wants a private chat knows where to find her.

These surveys are a wake-up call to all of us to make spending extra time with our children the priority.

Turn off the screens, play a game, make a meal together, go for a walk, read a book aloud. Try to get that eight hours a week up to 15.

Yes, we’re all busy but most parents should be able to claw time back from less pressing activities.

Nothing is more important than bringing up the next generation.


By Miranda Devine

Source: Herald Sun –