Are parent behaviours with their use of technology having an impact on their child’s development?

I recently attended a very intriguing keynote presentation from Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair titled: Lost in Connection: How The Tech Effect Puts Children’s Development at Risk

I was preparing to listen to more information about how children are using technology and the negative effect of this on their development. Certainly, this would fit with some of the concerns that parents raise about their children and how technology is impacting upon their lives. There is, perhaps, even more concern given that many schools use 1 to 1 laptop programs and iPads are also rapidly being introduced to compliment classroom instruction from teachers.

I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised that the presentation that Dr. Steiner-Adair gave was not about this at all. It was, in fact, about the behaviours of parents with technology and the impact that these behaviours are having on children.

While I certainly did not agree with every aspect of her talk, some excellent points were made for us to consider in our role as parents and, for that matter, as teachers:

  • How attached are we to our mobile devices?
  • How often are we checking for emails, messages and notifications?
  • How we are using mobile technology to record many aspects of our lives and also those of our children?

Three things really stuck in my mind. Firstly, when we hear a notification alert on our mobile device and how that makes us feel. For many of us, there is that instant need to break free of what we are currently doing to attend to that notification. So many important moments that we spend with our children can be interrupted by our mobile devices, that when we try to return to the conversation, the moment, it has passed, we cannot recapture it and children see that.

Secondly, how often do we respond to children, “I am just checking my…, WeChat, Facebook etc”? Does this happen so often that our devices get in the way of more timely and appropriate responses, so our children feel important and do not come after the device?


How much is technology affecting big events. The picture above was taken recently when the Pope visited the United States. The compulsion that nearly all the adults in the photo have to record the moment to say “I was there,” is quite incredible. One person (circled) does not need a device to remember the event, she will put it to memory, which will not fade and she will cherish. As a society we seem to have bought into filming or photographing everything that we see. When students perform on stage, they look at a sea of mobile devices recording their every move as apposed to the happiness on the faces of their parents behind those cameras and phones. I know what I would prefer to see.

I encourage you all to consider how your digital life and use of mobile devices is impacting on your children’s development and make some changes.

My instant commitment from this talk is, no technology in first hour when my son wakes in the morning; he deserves my full attention.

2 thoughts on “Are parent behaviours with their use of technology having an impact on their child’s development?

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  1. An interesting post. I know that personally I get very frustrated with other people when they feel compelled to disengage and pick up their phone on every beep from their device. Too often I think that people are spreading their attention too broad and too thin. Rather than focusing on the moment and the people they are with they are engaged with others who are not present, and trying to do this at the same time.

    I think that this might actually compromise the extent to which people commit to a new place or a new opportunity. There are wonderful aspects of technology that enable us to connect to, and stay connected to, people from all over the world and this is great. As someone who has recently moved I am grateful for this – but how much of my time should I spend maintaining relationships with people where I have moved from as opposed to building new relationships?

    Age is also an interesting aspect to consider. Both of my parents recently got smartphones and it is fascinating to watch how they respond to the various alerts etc. that they get. They literally jump up and look at everything instantly My theory is that this is because they grew up with landlines and a very low frequency of calls which meant that when the phone rang you answered it because it was likely to be important. They now apply the same though process to every email and message alert.

    They are bemused by me ignoring alerts until I am ready to look at them.

    On the more positive side I love that I can get regular messages from my parents, including the word puzzle from their daily paper that we then race to solve first. These little moments truly keep us connected whilst we’re far apart.

    I don’t have children to make a tech commitment to but I am going to make a commitment of what is I think already a habit – no messaging other people during meals and other meaningful times with my wife (unless it’s to send a picture to family….)

    1. Great contribution Dom.

      I think it all about balance and finding it. I know there will be some who dismiss calls to modify our own behaviour because they feel like they are being told what to do.

      The message really is about having an awareness of your surroundings, enjoying being with the people you are with and making the most from those precious moments. When we look back on life it is not spending that extra bit of time with someone or enjoying something that we can most regret.

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