Ad­dicted to your phone? You could be hurt­ing your kids

Chil­dren more likely to have be­havioural is­sues if par­ent glued to tech, study finds


Cau­tion, par­ents: Your smart­phone ad­dic­tion could be harm­ing your chil­dren.

Re­search by a pro­fes­sor at Illi­nois State Univer­sity has found that par­ents who say they strug­gle to limit their time look­ing at phones, tablets and other tech de­vices have chil­dren who ex­hibit more be­havioural prob­lems in­clud­ing act­ing out and crying.

“We need to crit­i­cally ex­am­ine our de­vice use,” said Bran­don McDaniel, fam­ily and con­sumer sciences as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor and au­thor of a study sched­uled to be pub­lished this week in the jour­nal Child Devel­op­ment.

“Let’s be mind­ful of how phones can in­flu­ence us, so that we can be the mas­ter of our phones in­stead of our phones be­ing the mas­ter of us.”

For the study, McDaniel sur­veyed 170 par­ents across the U.S. — mostly mar­ried, all in long-term re­la­tion­ships — on “tech­nofer­ence,” or how tech­nol­ogy af­fects in­ter­ac­tions be­tween par­ents and chil­dren. The study is among the first of its kind in the de­vel­op­ing field of re­search that ex­plores the ef­fect of tech­nol­ogy on re­la­tion­ships, McDaniel said.

Re­sults showed that the par­ents who re­ported prob­lem­atic or ad­dic­tive use of tech­nol­ogy — check­ing phones of­ten, feel­ing lost with­out them or turn­ing to cell­phones when they are lonely — also re­ported that their re­la­tion­ships with their chil­dren were be­ing in­ter­rupted. The in­ter­rup­tions led to kids act­ing out, turn­ing in­ward with feel­ings or ex­hibit­ing ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour or crying spells, McDaniel said.

McDaniel, whose web­site in­cludes the motto “work­ing to make fam­i­lies stronger,” con­ducted pre­vi­ous re­search that showed that moth­ers in co-par­ent­ing re­la­tion­ships were less sat­is­fied in their re­la­tion­ship when there was more tech­nofer­ence.

He noted that his aim is not to make par­ents feel guilty about their habits, but rather to help the pub­lic be mind­ful of the way tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing the way we in­ter­act.

“This is just the day and age that we live in. These de­vices are de­signed to ab­sorb our at­ten­tion,” McDaniel said.

“Yes, you’re go­ing to be dis­tracted some­times, but we need to try to min­i­mize those dis­trac­tions, re­aliz- ing that your chil­dren are not al­ways go­ing to be lit­tle.”

Scott Levin, a fam­ily physi­cian and di­rec­tor at the West Sub­ur­ban Med­i­cal Clinic in Oak Park, Ill., said the find­ings in­spired him to be­gin talk­ing to pa­tients about the draw­backs of parental screen time.

Too of­ten, par­ents pay at­ten­tion only to the chil­dren’s screen time, Levin said.

“Par­ents are so plugged into this, but then they lose track of them­selves,” Levin said.

“If we’re not aware, as par­ents, of what we’re mod­el­ling for our kids, then there are high prices to pay.”

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