Parenting coach Sue Atkins has said that parents often ask about how to “get a teenage off their phone” but parents also need to think about how they use them.
The restaurant chain Frankie & Benny’s is trialling the offer of free meals for children if their parents hand over mobile phones for the duration of the visit.
The ‘no-phone zones’ have been launched in 250 UK restaurants and families are encouraged to put their phones in a box when arriving.
Ms Atkins, a former headteacher, told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham: “Usually I get asked about how to get a teenager off their phone and this is a very interesting topic.
“It is also about parents thinking about the use of it because we model behaviour. Children see us all the time.
“I was out with my own daughter last week – she is 24 – and we were having a meal and we were chin-wagging and I noticed this family come in.
“There was a baby in a pushchair and then a toddler. Mum gave the baby in the pushchair an iPad and dad gave the three-year-old the mobile phone. Nobody talked.
“You can’t say anything but I just thought ‘goodness, what a habit that is’. No one is talking, connecting and chatting.”
'Children get naughty'
Frankie & Benny's introduce 'no phone zones' to discourage phone usage at the table. Image: GingerComms/PA
Ms Atkins added that parents’ mobile phone use could encourage “naughty” behaviour.
“The other time parents need to think about [their mobile phone use] is when children run out from school,” she said.
“When they run out into the playground to meet their mum and dad, they are on their phones. They hardly look at them sometimes.
“I think ‘gosh, that is not good for self-esteem’ and I also think children get naughty because they are looking for attention.
“If you don’t give it to them, they will play up because any attention is better than none.
“So actually I think this topic is quite a serious one underneath all the bravado.”