Parents all over are worried about their child’s technology use. A study published in late 2017 reassured parents that their kids’ lives aren’t being taken over by technology. But a new study has turned the focus to parent technology use. The study from Illinois State University and University of Michigan Medical School researchers has found that technology use by parents has negative effects on their child’s actions and behavior.
The study focuses on technoference. Technoference is everyday interruptions in face-to-face interactions due to technology use by one or more participants. The new study says technoference between parents and children can lead to frustration, hyperactivity, whining, sulking and tantrums by the children.
Previous studies have shown that parents use TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones for around 9 hours a day. One-third of this time parents spend on their smartphones. Smartphones are easily transported devices, so it is easy for parents to use them, consciously or subconsciously, during important family time moments. Family time is vital to a child’s social-emotional well-being and growth, especially in the early years of a child’s life. Parents who actively use devices end up having fewer interactions with their children. The inadvertent ignoring leads to the children exhibiting hostile behavior because they are looking for attention.
During the study, 172 two-parent families who had children aged five or younger were tasked with answering an online questionnaire between 2014 and 2016. In the questionnaire, the parents answered questions about how often their device use interrupts interactions with their children every day, rated their child’s behavior during the day including sulking or showing hurt feelings, reported their own levels of stress and depression and how much their children used screens throughout a day.
The results showed that one or more devices intruded parent-child interactions at least one time during a typical day. The parents said that they turn to their devices to have a moment away from the stress of a child’s difficult behavior. While it gave the parents a moment away, device use around children led to more negative and difficult behavior from their child, and a cycle of higher device use and more bad behavior ensued. The results proved that device use takes away from opportunities that parents have to give their children emotional support.
The paper on this study was published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.