Smartphone Use in Restaurants Leads to Distracted Parenting

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Smartphone Use in Restaurants Leads to Distracted Parenting

In a first-of-its-kind study published in Pediatrics, researchers analyzed how parents or other caregivers use mobile devices around children and how that use impacts relationships. “We chose to observe caregivers and children during meals because this is a daily routine in which face-to-face caregiver—child interactions are considered beneficial,” said the researchers from Boston University Medical Center.

They observed 55 caregivers eating with at least one child in fast-food restaurants. Forty of those caregivers used a mobile device during the meal. Researchers were most concerned with the level of absorption, which they defined as the “extent to which the primary focus of the caregiver’s attention and engagement was with the device rather than the child.”

Of the caregivers with smartphones, most of them used the devices throughout the meal and seemed to have more engagement with their phone than the child. Researchers observed that many caregivers used the device almost continuously throughout the meal, eating and talking while looking at the device or only putting it down briefly to engage in other activities.
In the current study, it was common for children to act out to get the attention of the distracted parent and equally common for the parent to ignore the needs of the kids. “Caregivers absorbed in devices frequently ignored the child’s behavior for a while and then reacted with a scolding tone of voice,” said the authors.

Source: Physicians News Digest