During a nonparticipation, observational study, caregivers who were absorbed with typing and swiping on mobile devices during meals at fast-food restaurants spent less time paying attention to the child or children (ages 0 to 10) in their care and often reacted harshly to misbehavior or bids for attention, according to Jenny S. Radesky, MD, of Boston Medical Center, and colleagues.
"Although detailed analysis of interpersonal interactions was beyond the scope of this study, we did find it striking that during caregiver absorption with devices, some children appeared to accept the lack of engagement and entertained themselves, whereas others showed increasing bids for attention that were often answered with negative parent responses," they wrote in Pediatrics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises physicians to discuss screen time, but that is usually in the context of the patient using the screen, pointed out Ari Brown, MD, a pediatrician at 411 Pediatrics in Austin, Texas. But the AAP policy statement on media use under age 2 does state that "background media," or screen time intended for the parent and not the child, can also have detrimental effects on the child, she added.
"The broader conversation should also go over the parent or caretaker's screen time," Brown told MedPage Today.
"It's time for parents to be aware that their own screen use needs to be limited when their child is around. It only takes a minute with a caretaker's eyes and attention elsewhere for a little kid to get into trouble -- [it's] a safety risk," Brown said.
Radesky and colleagues spent time in fast-food restaurants in 15 neighborhoods in Boston during July and August 2013, and watched a total of 55 caregivers eat with children ranging in age from infants to elementary school age.
"This method of direct, nonparticipant observation is common in the field of anthropology," Radesky's group wrote. "The purpose of this approach is to identify cultural patterns and generate hypotheses for additional investigation."
Median incomes for the neighborhoods ranged from $ 45,604 to $108,686. Two caregivers were present for 41.8% of the observations, and the rest involved one caregiver. Almost half of the families had only one child present. About 44% of the caregivers were estimated to be in their 30s. The length of the meals observed ranged from 10 minutes to about 40 minutes.
Of the 55 caregivers observed, 40 engaged with a mobile device during the meal. Radesky and colleagues defined "absorption" as "primary focus of the caregiver's attention and engagement was with the device rather than the child." The researchers calculated absorption based on frequency, duration, and modality of use, against attempts to get attention from a child, and the responses to those attempts from the caregiver.
Continuous engagement with the device was observed in 16 caregivers, which included both sole caregivers and those with another adult present, men and women, and individuals of all age groups.
Continuous use was typically in the form of typing or swiping the screen. Phone calls did constitute use, but caregivers were more likely to make eye contact with the child during a phone call than when they were engaged with the device screen.
In the case of one absorbed caregiver, the child's bid for attention was met with a kick under the table. With another, the child was trying to pull the caregiver's face away from the screen, and the caregiver physically pushed the child's hands away from her face.
"These findings warrant additional study but are an important first step in the study of how device technology affects the daily interactions that are so important to child development," the authors stated.
Areas to explore include how caregivers conceptualize their mobile device use and the impact of "present absence," or when a person is physically present but his or her thoughts are elsewhere, the group suggested.
Brown noted that distracted parenting may be "dangerous" as distracted driving. "When the caretaker has his or her eyes on a screen of any kind, there is less talk time and interaction, and over time, it can take a toll on fostering a child's development," she said.
Although this study was in young children, Brown added that mobile device absorption by caregivers in front of teens is also a problem. "Teens need attention from their parents as much as young children do ... it is hard to expect a teen to avoid texting and driving, or being addicted to their smartphone if they watch their parents doing these things. It is an implicit endorsement."
The study was funded by The Joel and Barbara Alpert Endowment for the Children of the City and Boston University School of Medicine.
The authors reported no conflicts of interest.
(Source by: medpagetoday.com )