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Smartphone Distractions Impair Parent-Child Relationships, Study Finds

Photo from Vitolda Klein via Unsplash

Smartphone Distractions Impair Parent-Child Relationships, Study Finds

By Movieguide® Contributor

A new study finds that parents’ distractions, like smartphones and other screens, can negatively impact their relationship with their children. 

“In this study, we show that when parents are distracted, the quality and quantity of parent-child interaction is impaired compared to when parents are not being distracted,” Nevena Dimitrova, a principal study author and researcher at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland, said in a statement. 

One of these major distractions are smartphones, computers and other devices. The study refers to these as “technoference.”

“When a parent uses a digital device in the presence of a child, the nature and quality of the parent-child interaction are impacted,” the study reported. “In fact, interactions are frequently interrupted when parents use screen technology.” 

The study continued, “In an American survey, 68% of parents indicated that they feel distracted by their smartphone when spending time with their children.”

While many studies focus on the effect of screens on young people, it’s becoming increasingly clear that parents are equally guilty of spending too much time on their smartphones. 

A survey done by the Pew Research Center found that “only 31% of parents diagnosed themselves as being sometimes or often distracted by their own phones while having conversations with their teen, whereas 46% of teens reported this behavior occurring.”

“One thing that’s important to note is that screen time isn’t just a teen issue. It’s a family issue,” said Colleen McClain, a Pew research associate and the survey’s lead researcher. “We really wanted to highlight the way that teens and parents are navigating these issues. I think the design of our study, where we’ve been able to talk to both teens and their parents, really helps us to explore the nuances of all of this.”

Movieguide® previously reported on the effect that smartphones can have on the family unit as a whole:

OnePoll conducted a survey that took 2,000 parents who have children in school, and the survey showed that the average child will get their first smartphone by the age of 10.  

Six out of 10 adults stated that they text their children when dinner is ready…even when they’re in the same house.  

A few of the reasons parents gave for allowing their children to have smartphones was for emergency purposes (55%), to help children gain tech skills (47%), children showed the maturity to have one (46%) and parents believed that tech would be beneficial for their child’s social skills (62%). 

However, according to an NPR survey, “more than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people reporting feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship.” 

 “Social media use was tied to loneliness as well, with 73% of very heavy social media users considered lonely, as compared with 52% of light users,” NPR reported.  

“But feelings of isolation were prevalent across generations. Gen Z – people who were 18 to 22 years old when surveyed – had the highest average loneliness,” the survey added.  


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