Is too much technology causing your child’s tantrums?

And no, I'm not talking about your child’s screen time, I mean yours too!

Technology pretty much runs our lives these days. From constantly checking social media to taking selfies and binge-watching reality TV shows, we’re seldom without a phone, tablet or high-tech gadget in-hand.

While you might enjoy spending time online- checking mails here, browsing Facebook there, or taking Instagram pics of your family at the dinner table, your child might not be so enthusiastic about your screen time. In fact, a new study conducted by the University of Michigan is suggesting a link between mom or dad’s heavy digital technology use and child behaviour issues.

Technology and your kids

The study involved 170 two-parent households, and while it’s a relatively small study, it’s interesting nonetheless. To gain a better understanding of technology usage, researchers asked parents to fill out a survey with some questions such as:

  • How hard is it for you to resist checking new messages?
  • Do you think you use your phone too much?
  • How often do you worry about calls and text messages?

Then, there were more specific questions around tech-use during family time, such as:

  • Do you check your phone often during playtime with the kids, mealtimes or other activities?
  • Do you check messages during conversations with your children?

Lastly, participants had to identify certain behaviour patterns in their children from the last few months. They were asked whether their children had sulked or whined more often, whether they had more frequent tantrums or if they noticed their kids getting frustrated more easily.

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The study results

Interestingly, around 48% of parents admitted that technology-related interruptions were standard on any given day, while only 11% claimed to have no interruptions. Mothers saw this as more problematic than fathers.

After analysing the data, the researchers noted that even low or normal amounts of technological interruptions were linked to more temper tantrums and behavioural issues like whining and hyperactivity. Have you ever noticed how much your little one whines and performs when you’re on the phone?

“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.” Says, senior author Jenny Radesky, MD. However, it’s a double whammy, because when our kids act up, we want to retreat… and often we ‘escape to social media’ to see what others are doing. In this regard, Radesky agrees that poor child behaviour may potentially trigger parents to retreat to their phones.

The bottom line…

In today’s fast-paced world, children simply crave our undivided time and attention. That doesn’t mean banning all tech from the home, it just means avoiding multitasking and spending quality time with those you love, rather than ‘zoning out’ or listening with half an ear.

Look, myself and my hubby are self-confessed techno addicts, but I do my best (I'm not perfect!) to put my phone down when I'm with Bella. With my emails linked to my phone, it’s very tempting to check it constantly, so when I’m done for the day, I keep my phone in another room. This helps me to focus on Bella and have uninterrupted playtime. We also sit down at the dinner table together and chat away to Bella without any phones or TV nearby. So far, Bella’s tantrums haven’t been too bad, but I'll be crossing fingers that the so-called terrible twos won’t be so terrible after all!