A recent study suggests that parents' use of mobile devices around their children could be associated with less quality time parenting, due to the technological erase of boundaries between work time, family time and social life.
Smartphones and tablets could negatively impact the quality of time spent by parents with their children, being responsible for negative responses to the children's behaviors.
The method used by the study is qualitative and consists of 35 in-depth interviews within a semi-structured group. The study was carried out among English-speaking adults, who are caregivers of children between the ages of 0 to 8. The sampling was done from more ethnic groups on purpose, and the parents were selected from diverse educational backgrounds and employment statuses in order to prove the universality of the issue.
The study was published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, and it suggests that being an employee as well as a parent could be a stressful and challenging experience.
"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," noted Jenny Radesky, lead author of the study.
According to Radesky, the equation of balancing work life with family life becomes even more complicated when a certain responsive behavior toward technological aspects of the professional requirements is involved. People are expected to answer to emails and constantly check their calendars or update the schedules, which makes them less focused on responding to their children.
We're used to the statistics of using digital and social media, but the impact of this behavior on the quality of family time have been exploited less by studies in the field. However, it seems that the 3 hours a day parents and caretakers spend on their gadgets — smartphones, tablets and others — have an important role on how parents behave with their children. Using mobile devices is associated with fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions with the kids, according to the observational study.
"Compared to traditional distractions like books, mobile technology is described as much more commanding of attention that is unpredictable and requires a greater emotional investment," completed Radesky.
This lack of attention could signal a more serious issue. Children are undergoing cognitive development, hence they need to be stimulated in different ways. Linguistic and cognitive development could suffer because of the lack of attention the immediacy of the digital world is causing.
The study was conducted among subjects who are mothers, fathers and grandmothers, and they were found to experience cognitive and emotional tension due to their digital activities.