Mothers’ screen time is ‘damaging for toddlers’ development’ as they only devote 25 per cent of their attention to young children while browsing on phone, study finds
- An experiment, carried out by Israeli scientists, involved 33 mothers and their two-year-old children carrying out three tasks to measure response time
- The consequences of these interactions could be far-reaching say researchers
- It is likely that the research could be applied to fathers and their children too
Mothers who spend a lot of time on their smartphone while looking after their toddlers could be posing ‘a significant threat’ to the children’s development, say experts.
They only devote 25 per cent of their attention to young children when using their mobile to browse the internet, a study has found.
The consequences of these inadequate interactions between mothers and their children could be far-reaching, researchers said.
And since men and women use their phones in a similar way, it is likely the findings apply to fathers too. The experiment, carried out by Israeli scientists, involved 33 mothers and their two-year-old children.
The mums were asked to perform three tasks while they were looking after their toddlers – browse a Facebook page, read printed magazines or play with the child while phones and magazines were outside the room.
The consequences of these inadequate interactions between mothers and their children could be far-reaching, researchers said
Lead researcher Dr Katy Borodkin said: ‘The mothers were unaware of the purpose of the experiment, so they behaved naturally by splitting their interest between the toddlers and the smartphone and magazines. We videotaped all the interactions and later scanned the recordings frame by frame in an attempt to quantify the mother-child interaction.’
The researchers, from Tel Aviv University, analysed three components of interactions between the mothers and their toddlers. They looked at what the mother said to the child – which is an important predictor of how a child develops language – whether the toddler responded, and how quickly the mother replied.
Dr Borodkin said: ‘The mothers talked up to four times less with their children while they were on their smartphone. Even when they were able to respond while browsing Facebook, the quality of the response was reduced – the mothers kept their responsiveness to a bare minimum.’
The findings, published in the journal Child Development, also revealed there was no difference found between browsing a phone and reading a magazine.
‘However, it is clear that we use smartphones much more than any other media, so they pose a significant developmental threat,’ Dr Borodkin said.