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Why we’re all phubbing now: and how to stop it

Have you been guilty of phubbing today? It’s quite possible that you’ve done it, even if you don’t know what it means. A portmeanteau created from the words ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’, phubbing is a peculiarly 21st century phenomenon, meaning that you are ignoring those closest to you in favour of scrolling on your phone. We’ve all done it, but lockdown is bringing out the worst phubbing tendencies in all of us.

It's s tricky one, as very often the act of being on our phones is connecting us with distant friends and family – but at the cost of ignoring those we are living with. Prolonged phubbing can lead to a loss of strong connection with your close family members, and as ever, the ones that suffer most are children. Research done by the University of Kent in 2018 found that phubbing leads to a feeling of social exclusion, similar to having to eat alone at a cafeteria or when friends do not return calls. The researchers found that phubbing adversely affected participants’ fundamental needs, including their sense of belonging, need for meaning and self-esteem, just as is found for more traditional forms of social exclusion.

Another study, done in China last year, found that children who felt ignored by their parents were more likely to report depressive symptoms than those who had the undivided attention of their parents.

Of course the issue is, how do we stop? How do we reclaim our close physical connection with our family when technology is so pervasive? Here are our top tips – ranging from the fairly easy to some wacky experiments!

  1. Keeping phones away from the dinner table.

  2. Insitutute a ‘no tech’ hour that everyone has to stick to.

  3. Keep all chargers in public spaces – this means no phones in the bedroom, and also means family members may actually talk to each other while phones are charging!

  4. Phone stack. Great for a family night in (and who isn’t having a shedload of those at the moment?!) Create a stack of phones, face down. The first one to reach for their phone has to pay the forfeit – maybe the washing up?

  5. Practice what you preach. If you are caught out phubbing by the kids, pay your dues! Maybe they can choose a forfeit for you.

  6. The most important one – have a frank, open discussion with family members about how phubbing makes you all feel. The more chat there is, the more likely behaviours will change over time.

Sarah Smith

Foundation Speaker


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