A new study from Boston Medical Center shows that approximately 1 in every 3 parents with young children use their cell phones almost nonstop while in a restaurant with their families. The study also indicates that parents who are enthralled with their cell phones often have children who act out more than others.
Lead author Dr. Jenny Radesky, a specialist in developmental behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, said, “Caregivers who were highly absorbed in their devices seemed to have more negative or less engaged interactions with children.”
The blind study involved trained observers who watched and made notes about families they saw in restaurants. The notes included information about how the parents interacted with their cell phones and with their children, as well as how children behaved in these environments.
Researchers said that while some children were able to entertain themselves, most acted out because they were being ignored by their parents. The observers said that the majority of parents took out their phones after they had finished eating, and a large portion of them used their phones constantly until the children had finished their meals. 73% of the parents observed in the study took out their phones at least one time during the meal.
Radesky says that there are positive forms of mobile device interaction, such as showing a photo to a child at the dinner table. However, she added that “there may be reason for concern that a parent’s excessive device use can lead to less positive and less sensitive interactions with children.”
The results of this study will be published, in full, in the April issue of Pediatrics.