Excessive screen time has been blamed for several ills, including obesity and poor mental health. To mitigate these negative effects, we need to understand the things that encourage children to spend lots of time in front of a screen.
Children learn and develop their behaviour by watching others, especially their parents, and this includes screen use. In fact, the types of devices parents use and the length of time they use them for are the strongest predictors of their child’s screen use and screen time. Parents also control the availability of screens and technology and set the rules on their use.
Although parents are responsible for setting the limits for their child’s screen time, the demands of the modern world – and work and home-life duties – can make it difficult for parents to switch off and limit their own screen time. The constant connectivity that mobile phones allow makes it increasingly difficult to manage and can result in distracted parenting.
While it is thought that parents spend more time with their children than in the past, the quality of the interactions is thought to have decreased. In a study from the US, parents of children aged 5-18 reported spending slightly less quality time with their kids than they spend on their phones.
Sociologists, media theorists and technology experts have argued that digital technology is distracting us, resulting in negative social and emotional consequences. While we know that parents’ screen time influences their child’s screen time, we know less about the consequences of distracted parenting because of screen time.