How much time do you really spend on your smartphone? There are apps to help you track your usage. You may be shocked at the results. Besides consuming large amounts of your times, there are further consequences to smartphone use. A new study suggests parent distraction from device use may be linked to children’s misbehavior.
There can be a lot of guilt associated with cell phone use. I often hear friends comment on how they have removed social media apps from their phones to try and reduce the time they spend on their mobile devices. I then wonder if I should do the same or is my relationship healthy with my phone? Am I guilty of technoference?
What is technoference?
The term technoference was first used to describe the little interruptions from mobile devices that interfere in a couple’s relationship. These interruptions are “unintentional” and unconsciously done”.1)http://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/02/smartphone-sidebar.aspx
The Collins Dictinoary defines technoference as:
[Psych.] The interference of technology in couple relationships and implications for women’s personal and relational well-being because of everyday intrusions and interruptions due to technology devices.2)https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/submission/14702/Technoference
A study published in May 2017 in the journal Child Development is the first to explore how parental digital technology use affects children’s behavior.
This study investigates whether parental problematic technology use is associated with technology-based interruptions in parent–child interactions, termed “technoference,” and whether technoference is associated with child behavior problems. Parent reports from 170 U.S. families (child Mage = 3.04 years) and actor–partner interdependence modeling showed that maternal and paternal problematic digital technology use predicted greater technoference in mother–child and father–child interactions; then, maternal technoference predicted both mothers’ and fathers’ reports of child externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Results suggest that technological interruptions are associated with child problem behaviors, but directionality and transactional processes should be examined in future longitudinal studies.3)http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12822/abstract
The results are not surprising and logical. Children’s misbehavior is likely routed in a need for attention. Children are letting you know their needs are not met. A distracted parent is not available to meet these needs.
Just how much time did parents spend on their phones in the study?
The parents’ median age was early 30s; the children’s median age three. More than half of the parents self-reported mobile device use as taking their attention away from their child three or more times a day. Given the revealing nature of apps that actually track your usage compared to what you think your usage is, I suspect participants in the study underestimated actual interruptions. Not surprisingly, researchers also found the children’s screen time increased directly to parental use.
The Washington Post describes the study:
Asked to assess how often phones, tablets, computers and other technology devices diverted their attention while they were spending time with their children, such as during meals, playtime or other activities (described as “technoference”), nearly half (48 percent) of the parents said this happened three or more times on a typical day. Twenty-four percent said it occurred twice a day, 17 percent said it happened once daily and 11 percent said it never happened. As technoference increased, so did children’s behavioral problems, such as whining, sulking, restlessness, temper tantrums and acting out. The children’s own use of devices (their screen time) also increased. The researchers wrote that “even low and seemingly normative amounts of technoference were associated with greater child behavior problems.”4)https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/children-whose-parents-spend-time-on-mobile-devices-have-more-behavior-issues/2017/06/09/863f8482-4c6c-11e7-9669-250d0b15f83b_story.html?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.b1d088aed592
The outcome of the study reported in “Technoference: Parent Distraction With Technology and Associations With Child Behavior Problems” are not shocking. We know that technology interferes with our physical social relationships while cultivating virtual ones.
Smartphones are part of modern life. 1/3 of all Americans live in a home with three or more devices.5)http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/25/a-third-of-americans-live-in-a-household-with-three-or-more-smartphones/ Parents need to be mindful of their usage around their children to stay connected and present. It just may be the key to your child’s positive social and emotional development.
Image: fsHH / Pixabay
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