Skip 
Navigation Link
Parenting
Resources
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest News
Do Older Dads Produce Brainy Boys?Most Mothers Have Been Victims of 'Mommy-Shaming,' Poll FindsTime for Some Summer Sun Safety TipsWhen Parents Focus on Smartphones, Kids' Misbehaving Can RiseCan Sharing Your Bedroom With Baby Come With Risks?Does Dad Time With Infants Boost Babies' IQ?Brush Up on Swim Safety for SummerDo Daughters Bring Out a Dad's 'Softer Side'?Are All Those 'Fidget Spinners' Really Helping Kids?1 in 5 U.S. Kids Killed in Crashes Not Restrained ProperlyMany Parents Underestimate Drowning RisksHealth Tip: Be a Safe Driver for Your Kids'Dr. Google' May Undermine Parents' Trust in Their PediatricianAre You Raising an 'Emotional Eater'?Health Tip: Concerned About Your Child's Weight?Could a Clinical Trial Help Your Child?Parents' Pot Use a Tricky Topic When It Comes to Their KidsHealth Tip: Help Your Child with Body ImageOlder Mothers May Raise Better-Behaved Kids, Study Suggests'Eraser Challenge' Latest Harmful Social Media Trend for KidsSpring-Clean Your Medicine Cabinet to Safeguard Your KidsObese Moms May Fail to Spot Obesity in Their Own KidsParenthood an Elixir for Longevity?As Pot Legalization Advances, Pediatricians Warn of DangersKids Mean Less Shuteye for Mom, While Dad Slumbers On'Love Hormone' Helps Dads and Babies BondBe Your Child's ValentineHarsh Parenting Can Backfire With Bad Behavior From TeensParents of Kids With Heart Defects Face PTSD Risk: StudyFather Involvement Lacking in Pediatric Obesity ProgramsChronic Bullying Can Show Up in Report CardsParents Have Mixed Views on When to Keep Sick Kids Out of SchoolHead for the Hills With Sled Safety in MindKids' Care May Suffer When Parents Clash With Medical StaffHealth Tip: Getting Your Child VaccinatedGive Kids a Safe, Stress-Free HolidayHealth Tip: If Your Child is CyberbulliedHealth Tip: Help Kids Develop Healthy Ambition'Enthusiastic' Dads May Mean Less Troubled Kids: StudyPhysical Punishment of Children Declining in the United StatesHealth Tip: Encourage Kids to Choose Good FriendsOpioid Overdoses Have Nearly Tripled Among Kids, TeensKids With Gay or Lesbian Parents Do Just Fine: StudyTips for Keeping Halloween Safe and FunHealth Tip: Supporting a Child Who Is BulliedBe Aware of What You Share Online About Your KidsEven 6th Graders Commit Cyber Dating Abuse: StudyHow to Help a Child Who's CyberbulliedTexting While Parenting: A 21st Century TrapHow to Prepare Your Child for a New Brother or Sister
LinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Related Topics

Child & Adolescent Development: Overview
Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses
Family & Relationship Issues
Internet Addiction and Media Issues
Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7)
Child Development & Parenting: Middle (8-11)
Child Development Theory: Middle Childhood (8-11)
Childhood Special Education
Child & Adolescent Development: Puberty
Child Development Theory: Adolescence (12-24)
Child Development & Parenting:Adolescence (12-24)

Texting While Parenting: A 21st Century Trap

HealthDay News
by By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Oct 14th 2016

new article illustration

THURSDAY, Oct. 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Parents, which do you respond to first -- your ring tone or your toddler's crying?

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets can be distracting from child-rearing, upending family routines and fueling stress in the home, a small, new study finds.

Incoming communication from work, friends and the world at large is "contaminating" family mealtime, bedtime and playtime, said study lead author Dr. Jenny Radesky. She's an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Her comments stem from her team's study involving interviews with 35 parents and caregivers of young children in the Boston area.

"This tension, this stress, of trying to balance newly emerging technologies with the established patterns and rituals of our lives is extremely common, and was expressed by almost all of our participants," Radesky said.

"We have to toggle between what might be stress-inducing or highly cognitively demanding mobile content and responding to our kids' behavior," she said.

The result, said Radesky, is often a rise in parent-child tension and overall stress.

The findings make sense to Joseph Bayer, an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Ohio State University.

"Given past research on texting while driving and mentally demanding tasks, I can see how 'texting while parenting' would lead to some cognitive and emotional conflict," said Bayer, who wasn't involved in the new study.

But, Bayer cautioned that it might be too soon to say how parental device use will actually affect either the parent or child over the long haul.

"Just because parents feel like these things are emotionally challenging does not mean there are negative effects over time," he said.

Modern parents and caregivers interact with tablets, smartphones and other communication devices for about three hours a day, the study authors said in background notes.

Radesky's team previously found that when parents used mobile devices during meals they interacted less with their children, and became stressed when children tried to grab their attention away from the device.

The new study included 22 mothers, nine fathers and four grandmothers. Participants were between 23 and 55 years old (average age 36) and cared for toddlers or young children up to age 8. Roughly one-third were single parents, and nearly six in 10 were white.

On the plus side, many parents said that mobile devices facilitated their ability to work from home. But that could fuel anxiety, too.

"How in the world do I have six messages, 17 notifications, text messages of people who are saying, 'Why aren't you answering the phone?' " one parent said in the study.

Some said smartphones provided access to the outside world, and alleviated some of the boredom and stress of child-rearing.

"I do feel like for me, it is my escape, but I'm not sure it's the healthiest escape," one mother admitted.

On the down side, caregivers described being caught in a tug-of-war between their devices and their children.

Many parents also admitted that using a mobile device could affect their mood, thereby affecting interactions with their child. They also acknowledged that their children would sometimes act out to get their attention if they spent excessive time on their device. Caregivers would then sometimes react angrily, souring relations with the child, the researchers reported.

For "families struggling to stay unplugged," Radesky has some advice:

  • Set boundaries. Create a family plan that establishes device-free periods and device-free parts of the home.
  • Track your mobile device use and cut back if you see the time spent is excessive. And be aware of, and limit, the most stressful online activities, whether that's checking email or digesting breaking news.

The study findings were published Oct. 12 in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

More information

There's more on mobile devices and parenting at National Public Radio.