How bad is it if parents play on their smartphones instead of watching their children make mud pies or encouraging them while they swing on the monkey bars? According to a new study, this type of behaviour damages the parent-child relationship and leads to behavioural problems in children.
Without adequate affirmation or attention from their parents, children grow frustrated and hyperactive, according the study, published in the journal Paediatric Research. They sulk, they whine and throw tantrums, the researchers wrote in the recent study, which looked at 181 couples with children under the age of five.
Over a six-month period the parents reported their media use and described their children's outward and inward behaviours.
In nearly all cases, time on a digital device – even if just once a day – interrupted meaningful exchange between the parent and child. Both mothers and fathers noted how these interruptions impacted their children’s behaviour and increased their own stress levels.
This is an all-too-common reality of 21st century life. Parents are accustomed to turning to their electronic devices for a break: US parents spend at least nine hours a day watching TV, or on their computer, tablets and smartphones.
And if parents are dissatisfied with their family situation or social lives, aspects of digital technology, addictive games, social interactions and design elements, are especially appealing, the researchers write. Some parents use the devices to distract themselves from their children, even as they beg for more attention.
“Direct contact and exchange with the child must be central,” the study said. The researchers suggest creating media-free times and would like to see parents ditch their phone for a newspaper at the park. It seems to distract them less than a smartphone, according to the experts. — dpa