Cellphone use by parents determines children's behaviour, study suggests

1 / 2

Cell service is so poor this rural firefighter worries people can't call for help

Cell service is so poor this rural firefighter worries people can't call for help

Parents, put down those phones.

That was basically the finding of a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School and Illinois State University, who looked at the impact of parents' excessive phone use on children's behavior.

"It is the first [research study] of its kind and it is shocking — but it is great, because we now know," said Gail Bell, the co-founder of Parenting Power in Calgary.

"What they found was, parents addicted to the phone — unable to stop [the] checking phone — really interfered with those everyday interactions, such as face-to-face communications, playtime, meal time, and that is having a huge increase on [their childrens' negative] behaviour," Bell added, in an interview on The Homestretch.

Of 200 families studied, 40 per cent of moms and 32 per cent of dads admitted being addicted to their phones.

"Those are really big numbers," Bell said.

New word

The phenomenon has even resulted in a new word: technoference.

"It is just those interruptions that a screen causes between a parent and their child," Bell said.

"It is really affecting connection between kids and affecting speech in children."

Researchers reported some definite identifiable outcomes as a result, Bell said.

"Parents are texting and using headphones," Bell said. "When children speak to them, and they don't get any response,  they get the message that they shouldn't speak." 

That was borne out in the results produced by the study, in which there was a 20 per cent drop in verbal interactions, 30 per cent drop in non-verbal communications and 28 per cent drop in moms encouraging their children.

"[It's producing an] increase in whining, an increase in actually physically pushing and shoving and pulling on parents — when they're little and don't have the language to communicate — throwing themselves on the floor, yelling and screaming. Which is really hard [for parents to contend with]."

- MORE CALGARY NEWS | U-turn detour planned as Glenmore Trail upgrades prompt nightly flyover closures this weekend

- MORE CALGARY NEWS | Why doors are painted to look like bookshelves and nooks at this seniors centre

'Kids learn what they live'

As far as what parents can do to remedy the situation, Bell says it's not so complicated — but that doesn't mean it's easy, either.

"Kids learn what they live. We have to step up. We have to start being the adults — and we have to be responsible with that," she said. 

"Start small. Set yourself up for success. Maybe it's every dinner or every breakfast that you eat together, if you eat together as a family. At bedtime routines, give your child attention. That's why children act up at bedtime — they don't want to not be with you. Try to ditch your phones at meals, bedtime — and for sure, playtime."

- Read more articles by CBC Calgary, like us on Facebook for updates and subscribe to our CBC Calgary newsletter for the day's news at a glance.

With files from The Homestretch