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Parental tech time can cause behavioral problems in kids: study

When Timmy gets in trouble for fighting at school, maybe it’s Mommy or Daddy who should lose their cell phone privileges.

A new study suggests that parents who spend excessive time on their phones while in the presence of their children are likely to see more behavioral problems from kids, such as tantrums, whining and frustration.

Translation: Get off your damn phone and pay attention to your kid already!

Researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 170 two-parent homes about their use of smartphones, laptops and other technologies to see how the devices interrupted family time. Mothers and fathers separately filled out questionnaires asking them to rate how hard it was to resist checking new messages, how much their phones distracted them from engaging with their kids and if they thought they used their phones too much.

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Do you have “technoference?”

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Almost half the moms and dads — 48% — admitted that phones interrupted their parenting time at least three times a day, but mothers viewed the tech distractions as more problematic than fathers did. Only 11% claimed they were never interrupted by their devices.

Lead author Brandon T. McDaniel, has dubbed the phenomenon “technoference.” The results of the study, published in the May online issue of the journal Child Development, jive with a 2016 report from Common Sense Media that found parents spent just as much time on screen devices as kids — upwards of nine hours.

“This was a cross-sectional study, so we can’t assume a direct connection between parents’ technology use and child behavior, but these findings help us better understand the relationship,” said senior author Jenny Radesky.

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Get off your damn phone and pay attention to your kid already!

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While the effects of screen time on children have been an area of focus — the American Academy of Pediatrics updated guidelines just last year — the effect of parental screen time has not. More research is still needed to fully determine the impact technology has on child development and behavior, for parents and kids.

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Both Radesky and the AAP recommend establishing screen-free family hours, like mealtime and playtime. AAP guidelines state that children less than two years old should have extremely restricted screen use (especially because the increased risk of speech delays), two- to five-year-olds should stick to educational content up to one hour a day with parents watching as well, and kids over six should have “consistent limits” so screen time doesn’t affect sleep and other healthy behaviors.

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