The more family time we steal to access screens, the worse our children's behavior becomes.


Is your child whining or sulking more? While there are a lot of possible reasons, don't overlook the potential that your behavior is to blame. A new study concludes that the more family time we steal to access our smartphones, computers, and TVs, the worse our children's behavior becomes.

Illinois State University and the University of Michigan found that parents who spend time on their digital devices during meals, playtime, and bedtime could be subjecting their children to relationship-damaging technoference. The study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, shows how acting-out behavior increases in children whose parents struggle in balancing their family life and personal screen time.

Related: How A Tribe Of Internet Friends Helped Me Survive After My Son Died

Coined by lead author Brandon McDaniel of Illinois State University, "technoference" combines the words, technological interference, and refers to the everyday interruptions in face-to-face interactions caused by the use of screens. With the average parent spending nine hours a day looking at a digital device, it's easy to see how these interruptions in parent-child interaction can add up fast.

The problem is further compounded if a parent becomes angry when her child is trying to get her attention while she's taking screen time.

Researchers found that, with nearly all 337 parents involved in the study, at least one device intruded in the parent-child relationship at some point during the days. Parents tended to access digital devices when they felt stressed and were seeking balance, which only increased when confronted with their child's acting-out behavior. However, this misbehavior on the part of the child was a direct consequence of being unable to regain their parents' attention away from the screen. If parents continue to miss their child's cues, the cycle reinforces itself.

Related: Smartphone Use Shrinks Memory in Teens

"Relationships between parent technoference and child behavior are transactional, and influence each other over time," McDaniel explained. "In other words, parents who have children with more [behavioral] problems become more stressed, which may lead to their greater withdrawal with technology, which in turn may contribute to more child problems."

Photo Credit: Joana Lopes / Shutterstock