New Study: Parent Technology Use Linked To Child Behavior Problems

For many parents, the amount of time they spend on screens seems immaterial - after all, when they spend time with their kids, their kids should know they're loved. A new study, though, suggests that when it comes to screen time, that may not be enough.


In particular, technoference - the term for interference caused by technology, such as parents' screens - can damage children's development and growth. In fact, it may take very little screen time to result in behavioral problems for parents' children.



The results come for a study out of Illinois State University, where lead researcher Brandon McDaniel surveyed 170 American families. Most families had more than one child, and parents were, on median, in their early thirties.

McDaniel's results showed technoference increased behavior problems in children. The problems included acting out, turning inward with feelings, exhibiting aggressive behavior, or crying spells. 

Technoference, McDaniel says, may occur during face-to-face conversations or routines such as mealtimes or play and can make children feel like an intrusion has occurred when a parent interacts with digital technology during time together. The study shows it takes just a small amount of interference for a child exhibit behavior problems.

On average, mothers and fathers perceived that two devices interfered with interactions with their child at least once a day. Almost half of the families reported techoference 3 or more times a day. Mothers perceived their phone use as being more problematic than fathers, but both mothers and fathers associated interference with greater behavior problems and more child screen time.

And the study results may have been more severe had they been more closely monitored - as currently constructed, the study relied entirely on what parents self-reported, both in terms of technology use and child behavior.

“We need to critically examine our device use. This is just the day and age that we live in. These devices are designed to absorb our attention,” McDaniel said. “Yes, you’re going to be distracted sometimes, but we need to try to minimize those distractions, realizing that your children are not always going to be little.”

In other words, children see technoference as a statement, by their parents, that technology is more important than they are. Technology breaks the attachment between parent and child.

Is that really the message you want to be sending to your child?

Image: Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr


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