New study: Checking your phone all the time could be affecting your kids

A new study in the journal “Child Development” suggests that parents who are constantly distracted by their phones have children with increased behavioral problems.

The study focused on “thecnoference,” or small, regular intrusions by our phones that escalate from a simple look to minutes worth of attention.

Study co-author Brandon McDaniel explained the findings:

Overall, we found that parents with problems managing their mobile device use were more likely to experience technoference during time with their child, and this technoference in the parent-child relationship was linked with more child internalizing (e.g., anxiety, depression) and externalizing (e.g., hyperactivity, disruptive behavior) problems. These links persisted even when taking into account factors like parents’ stress and depression levels. In brief, these findings suggest that parent technology use and child behavior are intricately connected, and also add to previous work, showing associations between technoference and potential relationship problems in couples and parenting.

He even offers an all-too-familiar scenario:

Your phone vibrates while you are playing with your child. You check it. Nope, no important message, but you end up on Facebook, then Instagram. About 10 minutes later, you look up, and your child has wandered off to play by herself.

McDaniel is quick to tell parents not to “beat yourself up” if you’ve fallen into the technoference trap. Instead, he says to develop some strategies, which includes asking an important question when you are tempted to pull your phone out while with your children: “Can this wait until later?”


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