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When Smartphone Is Near, Parenting May Falter

Study found many caregivers focused on devices instead of children

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When caregivers were completely absorbed with their phones, some children just seemed to accept it. However, many other children started acting up in an attempt to garner the caregivers' attention.

Some of these caregivers appeared to ignore the child's behavior for a bit and then scolded them, sometimes without even looking up from the phone.

"Children are going to get X amount of your attention every day. Your best bet is to give that attention in a positive way, or they may start to seek it in a negative way," said Briggs.

This is an emerging and important field of study, she added. "We're just learning how to think about exposure to media in small children, and now parents are being distracted by their phones. We can't turn a blind eye to this present absence," she said.

Radesky and Briggs agreed that smartphone use isn't all bad. Sharing apps and games with kids can be a way to connect. And smartphones certainly won't be going away anytime soon.

"They're an essential tool. What we need to do is help build guidelines for the healthiest ways to use them," said Radesky. "It's important for parents to have 'off' time where they tune in only to their child."

Briggs supports a balanced approach. "My take on tech use for parents and children is everything in moderation," she said.

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