Newswise — Researchers secretly observed 55 families dining in fast food restaurants to see how often parents directed their attention to their smartphones rather than to their children. Forty parents (73%) engaged with their devices at some point during the meal, with 16 of those parents (40%) engrossed in those devices for the entire meal.“Increasingly it’s an era of distracted parenting,” explains Dr. Aaron Cooper. “Our handheld devices make it possible to direct our attention toward our screens when we’re with our children — rather than toward the kids themselves.” Dr. Aaron Cooper, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, is available to comment on how parents can show their children they are focused on them and only them.

“Text distractions can disconnect the parent-child moment every bit as much as taking a phone call,” Dr. Cooper adds. “When that happens, consider the message it sends our kids about where they rank in our hierarchy of what’s important.”

Dr. Cooper earned his doctorate from Loyola University of Chicago, following a three-year internship at the Loyola Guidance Clinic. Prior to that, he received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) from Harvard University.

To speak to Dr. Cooper about the emotional and logical brain, or to learn more about The Family Institute, please contact Cyndi Schu, Director of Public Relations, at [email protected] or 312-609-5300, ext. 483.

ABOUT THE FAMILY INSTITUTE AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY –The Family Institute at Northwestern University ( is committed to strengthening and healing families and individuals from all walks of life through clinical service, education and research. An affiliate of Northwestern University, The Family Institute is a unique, innovative mental health system, governed by its own independent Board of Directors and responsible for its own funding. The Institute offers a wide range of high quality mental health counseling through our staff practice and our sliding-fee scale Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic, where we are committed to serving at-risk, under-resourced communities. The Family Institute also operates two nationally-renowned graduate programs in marriage and family therapy and counseling psychology in affiliation with Northwestern University, and conducts cutting-edge research projects that lead to a better understanding and treatment of mental health issues.