A recent study, led by Dr. Jenny Radesky of the University of Michigan's C.S Mott Children's Hospital, indicates that some parents are more tempted than others when it comes to the use of technology to soothe children's behavior.
Radesky and her team surveyed 144 English and Spanish speaking parents of healthy children between 1 to 3 years of age. The parents were then given a variety of survey instructions, questions and answer choices. Within these questions, parents were asked how often they were allowing the use of smartphones and tablets during different situations.
In order to evaluate the answers to these questions, Radesky and her team assessed the social-emotional development by using a validated Paediatric Symptom Checklist.
The results of the study showed a very high association between social-emotional difficulties in toddlers and low-income parents to use mobile devices to soothe their children and keep them calm and quiet. Specifically, parents who had a lower perceived control over their child's behavior and development tended to use devices.
However, there were no major differences between children with social-emotional difficulties and other children when it came to the use of mobile technology during other instances, such as eating, being in public, bedtime, or doing chores.
"My concern is more with when parents are using it as a 'let me me hand this over to you and let this distract you from whatever distress you were just in,' because kids learn from handl ing their own distress, not by being distracted from it," Radesky said.
The study also exemplifies that the use of mobile technology can have an impact on a child's overall development. Quality content and parental involvement versus passive watching is valuable for allowing proper child development. "It would be great if they had to use a device and there was some quality content on it," Radesky said.
It is not only mobile devices that can harm child development, though. "Other studies have shown that increased television time can hinder young children's language and social development, partly because they reduce human-to-human interaction," Radesky added.
"Now that screens can be taken anywhere, they have become part of our interpersonal space. We're interested in identifying the ways that mobile devices sometimes interfere with family dynamics, but also how we can use them as a tool to increase parent-child connection," she concluded.
The findings have been published in the Journal JAMA Paediatrics.