A new survey found that Swedish kids, particularly in Stockholm, had begun to ask their parents to put down their phones.
"Mamma and pappa make a lot of calls and send lots of mail. I have told them they need to put it down," 6-year-old Leia Almgren told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper (SvD) when presented with a smart phone and asked if her parents use one.
"Parents put down their kids and pick up their phones. It's like this all the time," preschool teacher Anna Lindelöf told the paper. "Kids have to play by themselves while parents sit and stare at Facebook."
The survey, requested by SvD and carried out by opinion research centre YouGov, included 521 parents across Sweden. The question: Have your children ever complained about your smartphone or tablet usage during activities or vacation?
About one in five Swedish parents answered yes, that their children had complained about their constant connectivity. In Stockholm, that number was one in three. One in five Stockholm parents also confessed they have lost sight of their children in a dangerous place, such as a beach, while focusing instead on their mobile devices.
The trend also appears to be on the rise. Internetbarometer, a Nordic statistics company that presents annual information about internet and media, revealed in October that the number of adults aged 25 to 35 who have a smartphone increased by 32 percent between 2011 and 2012, meaning that more and more parents always have email and social media with them.
"Kids learn that it's not worth competing with phones," said Gill Klintefalk, another preschool teacher in Stockholm. "When parents pull them out kids just resign to it."
Paediatrician Lars H. Gustafsson said the survey's finding are in line with his own experience and observations. He said mobile dependence not only presents a safety risk for children, it also can harm their development.
"I often see parents who don't answer when their children talk to them," Gustafsson told the newspaper Expressen. "Smaller children need interaction all the time, in everything they discover. The absence of that interaction is very bad for children's development."
Gustafsson said that inability to interact adequately with children is common in parents who are depressed, but an unusual phenomenon when seen in otherwise healthy parents.
Not everyone agreed that mobile usage was such a big deal, however.
"Obviously you want to be present, but not 100 percent, that's impossible," said mother Lisa Bjärbo, whose 4-year-old son complains now and then about her phone habits, to SvD.
"Our parents didn't lie and crawl around on the floor with us the entire time. It's about common sense. Mobile phones aren't going anywhere. We just have to find a sensible balance."