Parent-child interactions: what is the role of smartphones?
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Background The importance of parent-child attachment in supporting child wellbeing and development has been well-documented in the literature. However, modern technologies may act as a barrier to parent-child interactions. Currently, literature suggests many parents identify decreased feelings of social connectedness and lower levels of attention quality when using their smartphones while caring for children. However, no research to date has explored children’s perspectives of parental smartphone use. Aims This research explored the perceived impact of parental smartphone use on children, by gathering both children’s and parents’ perspectives. Two principal research questions identified were: 1. How do children perceive parental smartphone use? 2. What are parents’ experiences of using smartphones when caring for children? Methods Children’s perspectives were elicited using a Short Story Methodology, with children asked to complete one of three story variations. Parental perspectives were gathered using an online questionnaire, consisting of both open and closed ended questions. Closed ended questions were taken from the Distraction in Social Relations and Use of Parent Technology (DISRUPT) scale (McDaniel, 2016), while open-ended questions asked parents about their experiences of their smartphone use when spending time with children. Descriptive analyses were performed on the quantitative data, while the qualitative data was analysed using thematic analysis. Results Children identified negative emotional responses in relation to the disrupted parent child interactions. Children also discussed negotiations that occur with caregivers when interactions are disrupted. Parents identified a number of ways in which smartphones intrude on family life, as well as external pressures and personal factors which cause them to engage in smartphone use. Conclusions Exploring the impact parental screen time has on children may provide valuable insights when examining the ecological factors that may be influencing child development. For educational psychologists, these factors are important to consider when supporting children and their families.