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Do Kids Act Out More When Parents Check Their Smartphone?

Dorathy Gass

Most everyone nowadays owns a smartphone or technological device of some sorts. Various research has revealed the negative impacts that technology can have on an adult’s physical and mental health. But what about our children? A recent study reveals there may be a link to bad behavior in children, the more parents reach for these devices.

It’s no surprise, past research has found a link between decreased child-parent interaction when moms and dads partake in excessive smartphone/device use. Still, nothing has dived into the impact this has when it comes to a child’s behavior.

Coined as the term ‘technoference’, Medical News Today advised that the study reviewed a link between increased use of digital technology by parents and poor behavior in children.

The study team reviewed reports from 170 American ‘two-parent’ families, with children three years of age and over. The study asked parents about their use of laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. The research reviewed the idea of how these types of technology took away from family time spent together (i.e. looking at text during meal time), and how this affected the ability for parents to engage with their kiddos. Moms and dads in the study were also asked to rate their kids’ behavior over the two months the research took place; specifically, on whether their kids revealed signs of hyperactivity, whining, sulking, or became frustrated easily. Factors were adjusted around depression or stress in parents, education and income levels, quality of co-parenting, and if parents supported each other.

General, most of the moms and dads did state that technology interrupted daily interactions with their kids, listing a minimum of one time daily.

In fact, 48% of the parents involved in the study stated three plus examples daily, when it came to technoference. Meanwhile, 24% stated technoference occurred two times a day, while 17% reported that it only occurred one time daily. Interestingly, 11% reported no technoference occurred during the research.

According to the study, technoference, even the low levels, were linked to increased child issues around behavior, including whining, irritability, oversensitivity, and hyperactivity. The authors of the study did note, their research was observational, as well as cross-sectional; only looking at groups of individuals within a time period, versus a longer or extended time.

The research team does understand how technology can offer a de-stressing way to wind down at the end of the day for moms and dads, however, they also encourage parents to place ‘smartphone-free’ time aside, to focus more closely on their children and interaction.

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