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It’s something that most parents would be ashamed to admit, but many would be guilty of doing.

New research out of Monash University shows many parents don’t realise when their child is trying to get their attention in public, because they are glued to their phones.

Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology and PhD candidate, Carrie Ewin, conducted an observational study of 70 parents using their phones or tablets in shopping centres, food courts and play areas.

“The reason for conducting an observational study was to help understand how parents use mobile devices and how kids respond, in real every day moments,” Ms Ewin said.

The study had some frightening results.

Of the parents or caregivers observed, more than 80 per cent used a phone of tablet for more than 10 minutes, one for nearly two hours.

Worryingly, some missed the signs their child needed them, such as a child wandering off or injuring themselves.

“One parent was so engrossed in their device – for more than 30 minutes – that they didn’t notice their son hitting play equipment or crawling over furniture. Another caregiver didn’t see their baby standing up and falling out of a pram,” she said.

“Another child was observed sitting silently and fiddling with a strap, without sharing any conversation, laughter or smiles, for 20 minutes until she tried to get her father’s attention by giving him a hug. Even then, the parent still didn’t look up.

“This study reveals that parents struggle to engage with their children when they have a mobile device and often model the absorbed and distracted behaviour that children are criticised for.”

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