Parent use of mobile device may lead to negative parent-child interactions
Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are changing the way we do things and how we interact with people around us.
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Researchers from University of Michigan have recently conducted a survey to understand what parents think about their own extended use of devices and how these devices are affecting their lives. The small qualitative study shows that parents who use mobile devices are finding it difficult to balance their lives and facing a lot of internal conflict as a result.
“Every time a new technology is introduced, it disrupts things a little, so in many ways this is no different from the anxieties that families and our culture felt with the introduction of the TV or telephone,” said study lead author Dr. Jenny Radesky, a professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School.
“What is different is the rate of adoption and saturation of our households with mobile technology compared to these older technologies (e.g., it took the iPad 80 days to reach 50 million global users, compared to 14 years for televisions) – so we have less time to reach a new homeostasis with each of them.
For the study, researchers interviewed 35 caregivers representing mothers, fathers, grandmothers and single parents. The participants involved in the had diverse ethnic background, educational levels and employment statuses so the results can be generalized beyond a specific segment of the society. Researchers found that parent use of smartphones and other mobile devices while around their young children was causing internal tension, conflicts and negative interactions with kids.
While many participants credited the devices with allowing them to bring work home and spend more time with their children, they also felt that they less are interacting with their children as they are constantly responding to emails even during playtime with kids. Staying glued to their smartphones and tablets all the time has blurred the lines between work, home and social lives.
This multitasking is disrupting family routines and fueling stress in the home.
"Parents are constantly feeling like they are in more than one place at once while parenting. They're still 'at work.' They're keeping up socially. All while trying to cook dinner and attend to their kids," said Radesky.
“It's much harder to toggle between mom or dad brain and other aspects of life because the boundaries have all blurred together. We wanted to understand how this was affecting parents emotionally. We found that parents are struggling to balance family time and the desire to be present at home with technology-based expectations like responding to work and other demands.”
Though, it is difficult to avoid the work popping up on your tiny screens, researchers suggest that parents can have many ways to minimize stress for everyone in the house. For example, they can create device-free time at dinner or bedtime or they can use filters to avoid the temptation of tech use at home.
The study was published in Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.