Parents are constantly being told to restrict the amount of time their children spend using phones and other gadgets – but their own technology habits could be equally as damaging.
Researchers from Boston Medical Centre studied a total of 55 caregivers, predominantly parents, while they ate in a fast food restaurant with their children.
They found that one in three parents used their phones almost continuously during the meals – and previous research has found a lack of eye contact and interaction with children can reduce the bond with that child.
Researchers also found that when parents spent a long time looking at their phones, their children had a tendency to play up and seek attention.
‘Caregivers who were highly absorbed in their devices seemed to have more negative or less engaged interactions with children,’ said behavioural paediatrics expert Dr Jenny Radesky.
However, this was not always the case, and in some instances the children were able to amuse themselves.
Dr Radesky and her team observed these interactions secretly, in order to see them in what they called a ‘real-life setting.’
There were 55 interactions and each interaction involved a child under the age of 10.
They observed five different behaviours ranging from parents who didn’t use their phones at all during the meal, parents who put their phone on the table but didn’t use it, parents who used their phone intermittently, parents who used their phone at the end of the meal, and those who used their phones throughout.
Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of the adults used their phone at least once during each meal.
More than 15 per cent used their phones towards the end of the meal, while the children were still eating, and continued to use it until they left the restaurant.
As well as playing up, a number of children became distracted when their parents were distracted and wanted to know why the parents were using their phones.
The findings will be published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.
This is the first study to examine how children behave when their adults are using their phones.
Previous studies have found that young children, especially newborns, use eye contact with their parents, in part, to form a bond and learn about the world. Language is also developed in a similar way.
Limiting this face-to-face contact could cause problems with development and reduce the level of bond between a parent and a child – however, the researchers from Boston claim this study is just the beginning and more work needs to be done to make any conclusions about tech use in parents and child behaviour.
Source: Daily Mail