Psychologists have been warning that too much screen time for parents is leading to a phenomenon called “smartphone orphans”.

Instead of spending time with their children, parents are glued to their smart phone after work, and are missing out on important family moments.

Irish psychologist Stella O’Malley tells Independent.ie that Irish parents need to create their own boundaries and even sometimes allow their children to call them out if their smartphone use has become excessive.

“I think [“smartphone orphans” is] a good phrase because an awful lot of people know they use the smart phone too much. I think it’s very easy to slide and fall into it. You don’t intend to but there’s so much entertainment on the phones and it’s so easy to be permanently distracted and it seems like you’re with your children but you’re not actually with your children.”

“Children are used to it, and very often they’re being told ‘Mammy’s on the phone, leave her alone’. And generally Mammy does need to take the phone call or the email. But children haven’t been told that it’s OK to say ‘put your phone down, you’re being rude to me’. They’ve been told the exact opposite.”

“Often there is a validity in the parent taking the phone call. But when there’s no validity in it, the children don’t know that actually ‘that’s not appropriate’.”

Deirdre Fitzpatrick O’Reilly,
Author of the book Surfing the Waves of Stress, Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher

This is a fantastic idea. Every house should have them too. I am a firm believer that our smart phones have the biggest negative impact on our mental health and well-being. They cause information overload, reduce mental focus and don’t get me started on social media. I think you got the nail on the head with self discipline. That’s a important ingredient in every one’s life. It’s just to find the right balance with the phones and Phoneawaybox provides this.


The issue of constant, even incessant, use of the phone can be a problem when an individual is frequently checking messages and using the phone for internet access and use of social networking sites.

A partner in such a situation can feel very much ignored, unimportant and disrespected and this can lead to distance or conflict in a relationship.”

Stateside, the phenomenon has even been given a nickname, ‘phubbing’, or partner phone snubbing, with one study by Baylor University in Texas finding that more than 46% of those in relationships had been ‘phubbed’ by a partner.

Mental Health

Dr Harry Barry – GP and author of “Anxiety and Panic and Emotional Resilience”

I have long advocated that the so-called ‘smartphone’ is actually adding greatly to these mental health issues. It is a weapon amongst other things of ‘mass distraction’!

I was therefore excited by this new initiative taken up by Principal Karl Hegarty and Gerry Ryan of Leinster Senior School. This is freeing up both the mind of the student and making life easier for their teachers.

Well done Karl and Gerry, it is my hope that this might become a policy in schools around the country’.