Parents' Tech Obsession and Badly-Behaved Kids

Fagjun | Published 2017-05-28 03:20

Parents with a tech obsession may be raising children that frequently display negative behavior.

There are a lot of reasons why children may behave badly by whining, throwing tantrums, or acting out. Sometimes, they may be hungry. Other times, they're probably tired and need to go down for a nap. It's also likely that these children are bored. However, a new study is exploring the possibility that these behaviors may have roots in the parents' behavior.

When parents spend too much time on their smartphones, tablets, and computers, it may impact the way their children behave. This isn't the first time that scientists have pointed out how technology can affect children. Scientists have also found that the use of smartphones and tablets may cause speech delays in young children. Now, scientists have discovered other ways in which technology affects children's behavior.


Parents from 170 two-parent households completed surveys asking about technology use. The parents also had to answer questions about how their use of technology disrupts time they spend with their children. Even something as simple as checking your phone for a text message during dinner is a disruption.

The researchers not only questioned the parents about their tech use, but also about how it takes up their time. Parents had to answer how much they worry about texts or calls, or how difficult it is for them to ignore a new message. They also had to specify how often their devices distracted them while they were spending time with their children.

There's actually even a term for those disruptions: “technoference”. A technoference is an interruption in which people check their phones during real-life conversations, meals, or family activities.

48% of respondents said that technology distracts them from spending time with their kids at least three or more times a day. 24% said that technology distracts them two times a day, while 17% claimed once a day. Remarkably, only 11% of respondents said that technology doesn't interrupt their time with their kids at all. The parents also answered questions on how often their children exhibited negative behavior in the past two months.

This new study suggests that there might be a correlation between tech obsession in parents and bad behavior in children. Those seemingly small or normal interruptions can trigger the development of hyperactivity, oversensitiveness, and short tempers.

Technology and Bad Behavior

However, the researchers caution that they are not claiming a direct correlation or causation between tech obsession and bad behavior. Instead, the study explores the relationship between these two factors.

There is also the possibility of a chicken-egg conundrum: which came first—tech obsession or difficult children? The researchers say that it's possible that badly-behaved children cause their parents to turn more to technology for momentary relief.

Either way, what's clear is that tech obsession takes parents' time and attention away from their children. Distracted parents therefore may not have the best relationship or interactions with their kids. Researchers recommend setting a chunk of family time each day away from the distractions of digital technology.

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