Scientists have found, interrupting family time by constantly checking your smartphone, a phenomenon dubbed as technoference, may increase behaviour problems in your kids.
Researchers, including those from Illinois State University in the US, found that even low or seemingly normal amounts of tech-related interruption were associated with greater child behaviour problems, such as over-sensitivity, hot tempers, hyperactivity and whining.
They analysed surveys completed separately by both mothers and fathers from about 170 two-parent households.
The parents were asked about their use of smartphone, tablets, laptops and other technology – and how the devices disrupted family time – a disturbance that researchers called technoference.
Interruptions could be as simple as checking phone messages during mealtime, playtime and routine activities or conversations with their children.
Parents were asked to rate how problematic their personal device use was based on how difficult it was for them to resist checking new messages, how frequently they worried about calls and texts and if they thought they used their phones too much.
They were also asked how often phones, tablets, computers and other devices diverted their attention when otherwise engaged with their children.
Researchers noted that on average, parents perceived about two devices interfering in their interactions with their child at least once or more on a typical day.
About half (48 per cent) of parents reported technology interruptions three or more times on a typical day while 17 per cent said it occurred once and 24 per cent said it happened twice a day. Only 11 per cent said no interruptions occurred.
Parents then rated child behaviour issues within the past two months by answering questions about how often their children whined, sulked, easily got frustrated, had tantrums or showed signs of hyperactivity or restlessness.
Researchers controlled for multiple factors, such as parenting stress, depressive symptoms, income, parent education as well as co-parenting quality (how supportive partners were of each other in parenting their child), which has been shown to predict child behaviour.
“We know that parents responsiveness to their kids changes when they are using mobile technology and that their device use may be associated with less-than-ideal interactions with their children,” said Jenny Radesky from University of Michigan in the US.
“Its really difficult to toggle attention between all of the important and attention-grabbing information contained in these devices, with social and emotional information from our children, and process them both effectively at the same time,” Radesky said.
The study was published in the journal Child Development.