When parents are on their devices, they have fewer conversations with their children and become more hostile when children try to get their attention, researchers from Illinois State University and University of Michigan Medical School found.
The new study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, studied nearly 200 two-parent families with children under age 5.
The parents documented how many times per day that devices interrupted conversations or activities with their children, between the years 2014 and 2016. They rated their child’s reaction to this behavior, such as how many times they sulked or said their feelings were hurt.
The parents also reported their own levels of stress and depression and documented their child’s own social media use.
In almost every case, researchers found that parent-child interactions were interrupted by a device at least once a day.
Parents who spend a lot of time on their phones or watch television during family activities like meals, playtime and bedtime could have a lasting impact on their children, leading to more hyperactivity or whining.
Researchers said that technology often serves as a refuge for parents who have difficulty coping with a child’s bad behavior.
This can be a problem, researchers said, because becoming buried in an electronic device rather than giving emotional support or feedback to children might result in more behavior issues.
This only adds to a parent’s stress level, researchers said, leading to more technology use to avoid the situation.
Parents use TV, computers, tablets and smartphones for about nine hours per day on average, according to recent research.
A third of that time is spent on a smartphone, which often interferes with meals, playtime and bedtime.