A primary school in Middlesbrough created a small media fuss recently when they decided to display some radical signs outside their school gates.

The sign is similar to a circular warning sign we’re familiar with next to our roads and features and image of an upright figure using a mobile phone with a diagonal red line across it, indicating something’s prohibited. And the caption with the sign reads: ‘Greet your child with a smile … not a mobile’.

According to the report in the TES some parents felt it was a good thing, others were not so sure. Is this an intrusion into our parenting? Do we need this spelling out?

Staff at the school said they were concerned to see so many parents too busy on their phones to talk to their children when they greeted them, so they decided to bring it to their attention. The head teacher said that they were not commenting on parenting, but were keen to develop speaking and listening skills and chat between parents and children is essential to support that.

And perhaps this is a timely reminder for us as parents to examine the interaction we have with our youngsters and whether our phones inhibit that.

We are urged as parents to talk to our children right from when they are babies. Hearing how we use language is an essential precursor to the way children develop it. But the importance of this continues right throughout their childhood and adolescence and is more importantly a vital part of relationships. Relationships are built on communication.

The communication we have between ourselves and our youngsters is the tool we need to help support them, keep them safe and healthy. If we establish a habit of conversation and communication our young people will feel more able to share their concerns and anxieties; imperative as they grow and face complex challenges in their relationships with others.

There is no doubt that in our techno-rich world our phones complicate that (as does screen time which we talked about here). We are constantly on call to others. Our conversations are constantly interrupted. Our privacy is invaded by social media. Our relationships are intruded upon.

Apart from conversation being a valuable learning and educative tool, the bottom line is that after a stressful day we often want to share it with important others. There is nothing worse than expecting a conversation with a loved one to find they’re more interested in talking to someone else on their phone or social media.

The example we set our children will have the most impact. If we expect their attention, then we’d better make sure we respect them enough to give it when they need it.

After school will be one of those times. It’s perhaps a shame that’s it got to the point of needing spelling out.



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