Mobile Technology and Parenting

February 14, 2023

By Gina Cipriano

Technology has infiltrated the lives of millions within society. Parents are often bombarded with the ding of a pending email from work or a phone call they feel they must answer. Not only this, parents may use cellphones as a way to distract themselves from negative emotions. In ways, it has made parenting more convenient and has been used as a tool to provide comfort for children. However, a study conducted by Radesky et al. (2016) demonstrated that for children, ages 15-36 months, giving them mobile technology to “calm down” or “keep the peace” was associated with more social and emotional difficulties.

Technoferences is known as “technology interference in parent-child interactions” (Lemish et al., 2019, p.3). Lemish et al. (2019) conducted a study that demonstrated only 27% of parents, at the playgrounds studied, had a high level of engagement with their children. A high level of engagement meant that parents were providing verbal directives for their children, encouraging them, and engaging in nonverbal communication such as eye contact. While some parents did use their mobile phones when demonstrating a high level of engagement, it was very brief in nature and did not distract from the child. Conversely, 48% of parents had attention that was divided between their children and another activity (such as phone use or speaking to another adult); the last 25% were disengaged and were not responsive to their children (Lemish et al., 2019). Mobile cell phone use seemed to correspond with higher levels of disengagement and/or contributed to parents' attention being divided among tasks.

It is important to note that our attachment styles are formed during our youngest and most vulnerable years. If parents fail to respond to their child’s needs consistently, it can result in their child forming an insecure attachment.

The following link includes information on the different attachment styles and how they form: (

Part of the development of a secure attachment entails that a parent demonstrates sensitivity. To achieve sensitivity, a caregiver needs to recognize when a child needs help from them, understand what they need help for, and respond in a way unique to their child’s needs (McDaniel, 2019). If parents are distracted by their smartphones, it can lead them to be disengaged or to have to multitask between their phone and their children. It can be helpful for parents to limit their phone usage so that they can continue to connect and foster their child’s development.


Lemish, D., Elias, N., & Floegel, D. (2019). “look at me!” parental use of mobile phones at the Playground. Mobile Media & Communication, 8(2), 170–187.

McDaniel, B. T. (2019). Parent distraction with phones, reasons for use, and impacts on parenting and child outcomes: A review of the emerging research. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 1(2), 72–80.

Radesky, J. S., Peacock-Chambers, E., Zuckerman, B., & Silverstein, M. (2016). Use of mobile technology to calm upset children. JAMA Pediatrics, 170(4), 397.

Parent coaching and child therapy available at Juno Counseling and Wellness, serving Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, and Palm Beach County, Florida.