Don’t Let Your Phone Get Between You and Your Child
How to reduce ‘technoference’ in your parenting
You’ve made it to the playground. Now to find a shady bench so you can scroll through Twitter or finally answer that email while your kid hits the swings. This might be your first relaxing moment of the day. But researchers have another name for it: technoference.
When your kid looks up from the sandbox and sees you staring at your phone, “they’re going to realize that to Mom or Dad, that device is more important than whatever they’re doing,” says Kristelle Lavalle of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital. “And the child internalizes that.”
Don’t bury your phone in the sand just yet, though. For one thing, that’s simply not possible for most of us in this day and age. With a few careful tweaks to how you use your devices, you could give a boost to your kid’s development, behavior, and relationship with you.
Research has shown that technological distractions make parents less engaged and responsive, which can interfere with learning: For example, two-year-olds were less likely to learn a new word from their moms when the lesson was interrupted by a phone call.
“Parents don’t speak as much to babies and young children when background screens are on,” says David Hill, a pediatrician and former chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. When he talks to parents who are concerned about their baby’s language development, Hill asks whether the TV is on at home. “It doesn’t matter if [the baby’s] watching it. It matters if you’re watching it,” he says.
With a few careful tweaks to how you use your devices, you could give a boost to your kid’s development, behavior, and relationship with you.
Outside of the lab, researchers surreptitiously observed adults with younger children at fast-food restaurants around Boston. Caregivers who were highly absorbed in their devices often responded harshly to kids’ behaviors. Brigham Young University psychologist Sarah Coyne says that as parents ignore their kids in favor of…