Parent Smartphone Use Could Harm Child Development

Written on

Mothers devote only 25% of their attention to toddlers when distracted, consequences can be far-reaching.

A new study from Tel Aviv University found that mothers devote only 25% of their attention to their toddlers while using smartphones, a practice which may impair child development. The researchers believe the findings are applicable to fathers as well.

To conduct the study, researchers monitored dozens of mothers who were asked to perform three tasks alongside their toddlers, aged two to three: Browse a specific Facebook page and like videos and articles that interest them; read printed magazines and mark articles that interest them; and finally, play with the child while the smartphone and magazines were outside the room (uninterrupted free play).

The goal was to simulate situations in real life where the mother has to take care of her child, while at the same time devoting some of her attention to her smartphone. To encourage natural behavior, the mothers were unaware of the purpose of the experiment when browsing a smartphone or reading a printed magazine compared to periods of uninterrupted free play.

The results of the new study, which was led by Dr. Katy Borodkin of the Department of Communication Disorders at The Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of Medicine of Tel Aviv University, were published in the top-tier Journal of Child Development.

When Mom Reads a Really Good Post

“The mothers talked up to four times less with their children while they were on their smartphones,” said Dr. Borodkin. Not only did they exchange fewer conversational turns with the toddler, the quality of the interactions was also poorer, as the mothers provided less immediate and content-tailored responses, and more often ignored explicit child bids. “Even when they were able to respond while browsing Facebook, the quality of the response was reduced – the mothers kept their responsiveness to a bare minimum to avoid a complete breakdown in communication with the toddler.”

While the researchers did not find that one medium distracted the mothers more than the other between smartphones and magazines, Borodkin noted that: “It is clear that we use smartphones much more than any other media, so they pose a significant developmental threat.

While the study focused on the mothers, the researchers believe the findings characterize communication interferences between fathers and their toddlers as well, since the smartphone usage patterns are similar between men and women.

WATCH: Dr. Katy Borodkin explains how extensive use of smartphones by parents might damage toddlers’ development

Parents, Put Your Phones Away! 

As the mothers performed the tasks, the researchers assessed three components of mother-child interaction: They first examined maternal linguistic input, the spoken content that the mother conveys to the child, regarded as an important predictor of a child’s speech development. Previous studies revealed that reduced linguistic input leads to decreased vocabulary in children, a shortcoming that may extend to adulthood.

Next, the researchers examined how interactive the discourse was. Known as “conversational turns,” the back-and-forth discourse between parent and child is a predictor of language and social development, as the child learns that he or she has something to contribute to the interaction as well as the basic social norms of social interactions.

Finally, maternal responsiveness was examined through the extent the mother responded to their child’s speech. This was measured by the immediacy of the response and its contingency on what the child said. For example, when the child says “look, a truck”, there is no comparison between a response such as “yes, that’s great” and a response such as “correct, this is a red truck, like the one we saw yesterday”. This measure is the basis for almost every aspect of child development: linguistic, social, emotional, and cognitive.

“We currently have no evidence suggesting an actual effect on child development related to the parental use of smartphones, as this is a relatively new phenomenon. However, our findings indicate an adverse impact on the foundation of child development. The consequences of inadequate mother-child interaction can be far-reaching.”

Related posts

Breakthrough Technology Could Lead to One-Time HIV Treatment

June 14, 2022

TAU Researchers Find Gene Mechanism Linked to Autism and Alzheimer’s

May 26, 2022

Want to Live Longer? Find Out if You Snore

May 15, 2022

TAU Researchers Invent Healthy Weapon Against Covid

April 14, 2022

Is the Vaccine Safe? Consult the Smart Sensor!

April 11, 2022

TAU Nanodrug Enables 2-in-1 Attack on Cancer

April 5, 2022

Minor Head Injury Leads to Chronic Post-Concussion Syndrome in 1 of 4 Children

March 28, 2022

Inventive Study to Develop Biological Solutions for Agriculture

March 27, 2022

TAU Technology Could Prevent Repeat Heart Valve Surgery

March 24, 2022

Israeli Breakthrough in Treating PTSD

February 22, 2022

Can Higher Temperatures Accelerate the Rate of Evolution?

February 16, 2022

Discovery May Enable Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

February 15, 2022

TAU Breakthrough Offers New Hope to Help People With Paralysis Walk Again

February 3, 2022

Ketogenic Diet Likely to Reduce Damage from Traumatic Brain Injuries

January 25, 2022

Reading Tea Leaves

January 25, 2022

Viruses and Game Theory

January 24, 2022

What’s The Link Between Electrical Voltage and Brain Adaptability?

January 23, 2022

As Pandemic Persists, TAU Forges Ahead with COVID-19 Research on All Fronts

December 30, 2021

Rising Temperatures Fuel Increase in Violence: TAU Study

December 26, 2021

Medicinal Cannabis Oil Effective for Treating Autism

December 22, 2021

Breakthrough TAU Discovery Key to Reversing ALS

December 16, 2021

Experimental Drug Displays Effectiveness in Treating Symptoms of Autism and Alzheimer’s Disease

December 15, 2021

Seaweed – A Promising Defense Against Covid-19

December 15, 2021

New Ethical Code for World Research of Ancient DNA

December 14, 2021

Saving Lives with Artificial Intelligence

December 9, 2021

TAU Experts on Omicron: “Don’t Panic”

December 7, 2021

Tired of The Lies?

November 23, 2021

Britain and Israel Team Up on Challenge of Healthy Ageing

November 10, 2021

TAU Researchers Identify COVID Proteins that Cause Strokes and Heart Attacks

November 8, 2021

Can’t Multitask Anymore?

October 6, 2021

Why Do We Squabble Over The AC?

October 5, 2021

The Immune System’s Double Agents

October 5, 2021

Help A Friend Out?

September 30, 2021

Using ‘Good’ Bacteria to Fight ‘Bad’ Bacteria

September 29, 2021

Recruiting ‘Fighting Cells’ to Destroy Tumors

September 14, 2021

TAU Team Reverses Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

September 10, 2021

Nicotine Testing of Children Curbs Parents’ Smoking

September 5, 2021

Want to Fall in Love? Step Outside in The Sun

August 31, 2021

The Silent Prophets

August 31, 2021

First 3D-bioprinting of entire active tumor

August 18, 2021

New Warning Sign for Breast Cancer

August 6, 2021

COVID-19 Immunity Varies Among Genders and Age Groups

July 26, 2021

Tel Aviv Bats Have More Fun

July 22, 2021

New study found differences between women and men in the level of COVID-19 antibodies

July 15, 2021

A world first: Technology that restores the sense of touch in nerves damaged as a result of amputation or injury

July 15, 2021

TAU Medical Student to Swim for Israel at Summer Olympics

July 15, 2021

New nanotech from TAU produces “healthy” electric current from the human body itself

July 9, 2021

Introducing the world’s thinnest technology – only two atoms thick

July 2, 2021

Want to Live a Long Life? Consider Investing in Your Marriage.

July 2, 2021

A world first: Targeted delivery of therapeutic RNAs only to cancer cells, with no harm caused to healthy cells

June 30, 2021

Pursuing the Unknown

Copyright ©  Tel Aviv University Trust. All rights reserved.
Registered charity number 314179.