Study: Smartphones distract parents from connecting with their children

By | 10th May 2018

  • A new study published in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships concludes that smartphones distract parents.
  • This distraction can result in a loss of connection between parent and child.
  • The study doesn’t conclude that smartphones are bad for parents to use, just that excessive use could cause issues.


While there are many scientific revelations that have happened over the centuries, the idea that smartphone use makes us feel disconnected from social interactions is probably not one of them. However, a study proving something we all probably know still has uses.

For example, a new study published in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships concludes that the use of smartphones distracts parents and prevents them from cultivating feelings of connections with their children. This proof could help parents put down their phones and stay more focused on their kids.

The researchers came to this conclusion via two studies. The first was conducted at a science museum. Over 200 random volunteers were told to use their phones while at the museum either frequently or infrequently. At the end of the museum trip, the parents were all interviewed to see how they felt the day went in their specific situation.

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According to the researchers, the parents who used their phones frequently during the trip reported feeling more distracted from the daily events, which “in turn impaired feelings of social connection and the meaning that parents derived when spending time with their children.”

In the second study, another group of over 200 parents were told to keep a diary of their smartphone use for a whole week. The research team found “further evidence that smartphones can distract parents from reaping a sense of social connection when spending time with their children.”

The evidence is clear: the less time parents spend on their phones, the more connected they feel to their children.

Kostadin Kushlev of the University of Virginia, the corresponding author of the study, told PsyPost that “the key message is that, as enticing and useful as they might be, smartphones can make spending time with your children feel less meaningful than it would otherwise be.”

Kushlev emphasized that the study proves that how much you use your smartphone matters, and that ceasing smartphone usage around children is not necessary to be a good parent.

“Our research does not show that phones make parenting meaningless — just that they can make it feel a little less meaningful when used excessively,” Kushlev said.

You can read the entire study here.

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