A new study claims that smartphones affect the ability for parents to look after their children. It also shows that people are becoming more reliant and also addicted to the new technology.
Boston Medical Center researchers visited 15 different restaurants and fast food places in the local area to monitor how people use their mobile devices. More specifically, the research was aimed at families to see how parents interact with their children and phones while out for a meal. The researchers never spoke to the families, but watched them from a distance. During the observations, they would take details of the tiniest interactions.
Out of the 55 families watched, nearly a third of the sets of parents used their cell phones for the majority of the meal, instead of talking to their children or paying attention to their actions. Forty of them were absorbed in their mobile devices for one reason or another. However, the amount the phone was used did not relate to the way that the children would react while in the restaurants.
Some of the children would sit in silence and just eat their meals. Other children would do anything to try to get the attention of their parents. In some cases, they were singing songs to try to get their parents to put their phones down. One child even tried to lift his mother’s head up from the tablet to get her to pay attention to him. Smartphones are affecting the ability for parents to care for their children as they become more absorbed in the technology.
From the research, it was clear that typing away on the phone is more dangerous than talking on it. While typing, parents would swat hands away or make quick gestures to get their children to behave or calm down.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Jenny S Radesky suggested that boundaries need to be created between the technology and children after seeing the results of the study. However, she does acknowledge that the evidence is far from conclusive. She does not suggest that smartphones are completely removed from the home or a child’s life.
MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds executive director Dr. Gene Beresin suggests that phones and other forms of technology should be put to one side at mealtimes. This is a time for many children to bond with their parents, and they will pick up traits and habits just from observing how parents act. Mealtimes, along with putting children to bed, helps children learn that intimacy and paying attention to each other is necessary.
By seeing parents on their phones all the time, children are likely to follow suit. This can cause problems for their relationships when they are older.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, noted some scary behavior from parents. One mother kicked her child because she was involved in her phone and her child wanted her attention. Radesky noted that if there was any interaction during the meals, it was mostly negative. This could have been for the mildest reason, and shows that smartphones are affecting a parent’s ability to look after his or her children.
By Alexandria Ingham