Smartphones truly can do a lot, but can they make the user a bad parent? Research is showing that smartphones may not be a smart choice for parents. It is still unclear how much of an impact smartphone usage is having on children, but it is definitely making an impact.
Researchers from Boston Medical Center observed the interactions of 55 groups in 15 different fast food restaurants. The groups had to meet the criteria of at least one adult caregiver and a child who appeared to be under age 10. 40 of the 55 groups used their smartphone at some point during the meal. What the researchers found in their study was that smartphone use affects the way individuals parent.
Individuals who were engrossed in their smartphones responded less and more harshly than those who used their phone only for phone calls. For example, one woman got angry after the young boy at her table lost his straw in his juice box. She had not seen it happen because she was looking at her phone and claimed he pushed it in before taking his drink away.
Children responded differently while their parents appeared oblivious to them. Some children accepted the lack of attention and ate quietly. Other children engaged with children at their table or nearby. One child repeatedly asked her caregiver questions, undeterred by her caregiver’s response, which was to nod without saying anything and without looking up from her phone. Other children tried a little harder to get their caregiver’s attention by displaying disruptive behaviors. They continued to engage in these behaviors until they received negative attention from their caregiver.
This research shows that being so engaged in a smartphone might not be a smart choice for parents. If parents are opting for smartphone usage over conversations with their child, it is possible that the child’s vocabulary will suffer. Conversations are the biggest predictor of the child’s vocabulary. The downfalls do not end with vocabulary. Social and emotional skills may also be hindered.
Mealtimes provide an important opportunity to interact with children. If parents are too busy interacting with their phones, then their interactions with their children will be limited. The study is not suggesting to do away with one’s phone, but rather to use it responsibly.
This study is meant to be just a step in determining how smartphone usage affects parenting and children. The researchers point out that the study is also trying to determine if smartphone usage is more distracting to a parent than other activities a parent may engage in while caring for their children.
There are certain events during the day where children benefit from parents engaging with them. Mealtime and bed time are two in particular. These times when the parent is not typically working are important times to connect with one’s child rather than a mobile device. During these times children get to experience conversation, which will increase their vocabulary as well as emotional skills. It will also allow the child a chance to feel connected, and will teach them that paying attention to other people is important.
The key is for parents to make smart choices with their smartphones, and not be distracted by them all the time. One simple way to do this; moderation. Using mobile devices in moderation is a good way to ensure that the parent is still interacting with their child at other times of the day.
By Ashley Campbell