A new study suggests that even low or seemingly normal amounts of technology-related interruption were associated with greater child behaviour problems, such as over-sensitivity, hot temper, hyperactivity and whining.
"Our findings contribute to growing evidence showing an association between greater digital technology use and potential relationship dysfunction between parents and their children," said lead author Brandon T. McDaniel, Assistant Professor at Illinois State University in the US.
When parents use mobile technology, their responsiveness to their kids changes and the device use causes less-than-ideal interactions with their children.
"It's really difficult to toggle attention between all of the important and attention-grabbing information contained in these devices, with social and emotional information from our children, and process them both effectively at the same time," added Jenny Radesky, child behaviour expert and paediatrician at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
For the study, published in the journal Child Development, the team analysed surveys completed separately by both mothers and fathers from 170 two-parent households.
Nearly half (48 percent) of parents reported technology interruptions three or more times on a typical day while 17 percent said it occurred once and 24 percent said it happened twice a day. Only 11 percent said no interruptions occurred.
Reserving certain times of the day or locations as being technology-free – such as mealtime or playtime right after work – may help ease family tensions caused by the modern blurring of outside worlds with home life, the researchers said.
"Setting boundaries on digital use can help parents keep smartphones and other mobile technology from interrupting quality time with their kids," McDaniel noted.