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Parent Distraction with Technology and its Impact on Parenting Quality

Authors:

Abstract

With the growing use of technology in the home, the way parents interact with their children may be shifting. Some studies suggest that technological interruptions and intrusions (i.e., technoference) in parent-child interactions are associated with child problem behaviors. However, no known studies have directly examined the potential changes in parenting quality that may result from technoference. We examine whether parent distraction with technology is associated with parenting quality in a sample of 527 parents. Regression modeling revealed that parents who rated having greater difficulties controlling their phone use while around their children also rated their parenting quality as worse.
Parent Distraction with Technology
and its Impact on Parenting Quality
Brandon T. McDaniel, Ph.D.,Jillena Everest, & Courtney White
ABSTRACT
Conclusions / Discussion
Participants & Procedures
527 Parents (79% married)
65% female on average 36.8 years old
61% had more than one child
94% reported having a heterosexual sexual
orientation
About 67% had an associates degree or higher;
median household income = $60,000 (SD =
$42,800); 79% Caucasian
Sample from following U.S. regions: 13.1%
Northeast, 21.3% West, 44% South, and 20.9%
Midwest
Recruited through a study announcement on
Amazon Mechanical Turk.
Background
DISRUPT (4 items)
Measure of problematic phone tendencies while
with their children.
“During time I spend with my child, I find it
difficult to stay away from checking my phone.
Controls:
Demographics (e.g., age, income, etc.),
depression (CES-D), parenting stress
Overreactivity:
Greater problematic phone use
predicted more overreactive parenting
(β = .23, p < .001).
Laxness:
Greater problematic phone use
predicted more lax parenting (β = .20, p
< .001).
Results
Research Aims / Questions
How does parent distraction with technology
impact parenting quality?
Specifically overreactivity and laxness
Brandon T. McDaniel, Ph.D.
Illinois State University
Email: btmcdaniel.phd@gmail.com
Analysis
The current results suggest that parenting quality
may suffer when parents are distracted by
technology, such as phones.
In order to strengthen parent-child relationships
in the age of technology, we call for more work
on the potential connections between parental
technology use and parenting quality and how
parents and families can best manage technology
use.
We tested our hypothesis with two
regression models:
one predicting parenting overreactivity
one predicting parenting laxness
Also controlled for age, sex, income,
educational level, depression, and
parenting stress.
Parenting Overactivity (5 items; Arnold et al., 1993)
Rated from 1 to 9 with two opposite options.
E.g., When I am upset or under stress: I’m on my
child’s back <or> I am no more picky than usual.
Parenting laxness (5 items; Arnold et al., 1993)
Rated from 1 to 9 with two opposite options.
E.g., “When my child won’t do what I ask: I often
let it go or end up doing it myself <or> I take
some other kind of action.
Measures
With the growing use of technology in the
home, the way parents interact with their
children may be shifting. Some studies
suggest that technological interruptions
and intrusions (i.e., technoference) in
parent-child interactions are associated
with child problem behaviors. However, no
known studies have directly examined the
potential changes in parenting quality that
may result from technoference. We
examine whether parent distraction with
technology is associated with parenting
quality in a sample of 527 parents.
Regression modeling revealed that parents
who rated having greater difficulties
controlling their phone use while around
their children also rated their parenting
quality as worse.
Results might also inform why we see
increases in child behavior problems when
parent-child interactions are interrupted
more frequently by technology (McDaniel &
Radesky, 2018).
Helping caregivers understand such
emotional and cognitive responses may help
them balance family time with technology-
based demands.
Many parents feel that managing technology
use in the family is a challenge (Wartella, 2014;
Radesky et al., 2016).
This technology use may be shifting the way
families interact.
Heavy parent digital technology use has been
associated with suboptimal parentchild
interactions (McDaniel & Radesky, 2018)
Technological interruptions/distractions while
around young children may be associated
with fewer or more negative parent-child
interactions (Radesky, 2016).
Funding Acknowledgments:
We would like to thank the College of Applied Science and Technology
and Illinois State University for their support of this work.
Article
Technoference refers to incidents in which technology use interferes with interpersonal exchanges (e.g., conversations, playing). Although research on technoference is in its infancy, there is preliminary evidence that mothers believe technoference has a detrimental impact on the social-emotional functioning of their child. The current study investigated the degree to which technoference was associated with attachment between mothers and their elementary-aged children. A second aim was to determine if the relationship between technoference and children's social-emotional functioning may be moderated by mother-child attachment. Surveys were completed by a sample of 80 mothers and their elementary-aged children. This study is unique in asking elementary-aged children to report their perceptions of parental technoference and the impact it has on their relationship with their mother and their own social-emotional functioning. More frequent technoference was associated with less secure mother-child attachment as rated by children, but not as rated by mothers. That is, frequent technoference may not significantly influence a mother's attachment to their child, but it is associated with a child's attachment to their mother. More frequent technoference was associated with decreased ratings by mothers regarding their child's social-emotional functioning. Furthermore, maternal attachment moderated the relationship between technoference and child externalizing behaviors, such that a more secure attachment served as a protective factor against the negative impact of technoference on child externalizing behaviors. However, attachment did not moderate the relationship between technoference and most social skills assessed in our study. Implications from this study are discussed, including ways to increase awareness of technoference among school personnel, parents, and youth.
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