CMCS Blog

Radesky: The Effects of Mobile Device Use on Immediate Child-Caregiver Interactions

What is the effect of our mobile device use on our kids? We intuitively know that it probably isn’t good to use our phones too much when we are with kids, yet mobile devices offer so many advantages to modern-day parenting, such as greater work-life balance and social connection, and we do not have a good sense of the real effects, both on the child and on our relationship with him/her. CMCS Affiliate Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at BUSM, and colleagues sought to find out the answers by engaging in nonparticipant observations of 55 caregivers sitting with one more children at fast food restaurants in a single metropolitan area.

The researchers recorded detailed observations of caregivers’ mobile device usage and the apparent effects this had on immediate child-caregiver interactions. They then qualitatively analyzed their field notes, finding that the dominant theme relevant to parent-child interaction was what they termed parent ‘absorption’ with mobile devices. While caregivers exhibited varying degrees of absorption, those who had high absorption, meaning the mobile device was their primary focus of attention and engagement, appeared more likely to respond harshly to the child – for example, raising their voice, speaking critically to the child, or even getting physical with the child. For these adults, the researchers presumed that the child might be seen as an interruption and distraction from the device. For their part, the children employed a range of behaviors to compensate for this adult behavior, from entertaining themselves to engaging in what the researchers term “escalating bids for attention” from the adult.

Although this study cannot confirm the long term effects of adult mobile device use on children , it raised several significant hypotheses about how mobile device use may disrupt parent-child interactions during family routines, which are known to be important to child social-emotional development. “These face-to-face interactions are a crucial part of young children learning language, social skills, self-regulation, and empathy” says Radesky. “While we don’t want parents to feel that all mobile device use around their children is necessarily bad, these results do raise the issue that if we get into the habit of always ‘checking’ or reaching for our devices during the day-to-day routines that sometimes, honestly, get a little boring for parents, we run the risk of displacing important early learning opportunities for our children. It’s also important to recognize that mobile media can be a great source of joint engagement between parents and young children; we didn’t see much of that in our study, but I do encourage parents to co-view media with their children, which can be a great launching point for play, learning, or conversation.”

The article was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Radesky: The Effects of Mobile Device Use on Immediate Child-Caregiver Interactions

By Jill Walsh
February 18th, 2015 in News.

What is the effect of our mobile device use on our kids? We intuitively know that it probably isn’t good to use our phones too much when we are with kids, yet mobile devices offer so many advantages to modern-day parenting, such as greater work-life balance and social connection, and we do not have a good sense of the real effects, both on the child and on our relationship with him/her. CMCS Affiliate Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at BUSM, and colleagues sought to find out the answers by engaging in nonparticipant observations of 55 caregivers sitting with one more children at fast food restaurants in a single metropolitan area.

The researchers recorded detailed observations of caregivers’ mobile device usage and the apparent effects this had on immediate child-caregiver interactions. They then qualitatively analyzed their field notes, finding that the dominant theme relevant to parent-child interaction was what they termed parent ‘absorption’ with mobile devices. While caregivers exhibited varying degrees of absorption, those who had high absorption, meaning the mobile device was their primary focus of attention and engagement, appeared more likely to respond harshly to the child – for example, raising their voice, speaking critically to the child, or even getting physical with the child. For these adults, the researchers presumed that the child might be seen as an interruption and distraction from the device. For their part, the children employed a range of behaviors to compensate for this adult behavior, from entertaining themselves to engaging in what the researchers term “escalating bids for attention” from the adult.

Although this study cannot confirm the long term effects of adult mobile device use on children , it raised several significant hypotheses about how mobile device use may disrupt parent-child interactions during family routines, which are known to be important to child social-emotional development. “These face-to-face interactions are a crucial part of young children learning language, social skills, self-regulation, and empathy” says Radesky. “While we don’t want parents to feel that all mobile device use around their children is necessarily bad, these results do raise the issue that if we get into the habit of always ‘checking’ or reaching for our devices during the day-to-day routines that sometimes, honestly, get a little boring for parents, we run the risk of displacing important early learning opportunities for our children. It’s also important to recognize that mobile media can be a great source of joint engagement between parents and young children; we didn’t see much of that in our study, but I do encourage parents to co-view media with their children, which can be a great launching point for play, learning, or conversation.”

The article was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Information about the Emerging Media Studies One Year Master’s Program

By Jill Walsh
November 19th, 2014 in News.

Ali Parisi’16 MS in Public Relations, has just written a blog post about the Emerging Media Studies Master’s program.  This program is the first in the nation to focus specifically on emerging media!

In the blog she provides an overview of the program and highlights the Extended Group Research Project Seminar, a full year course designed to provide students with an introduction to theory and methods while also giving them the opportunity to develop their own research project in the second half of the course. Dr. Katz is quoted as saying ““our goal is to mentor students in doing meaningful research relating to emerging media so that when they take their post- graduate positions, they will already know how to do research and will have a portfolio to show employers.”  Parisi interviewed several current students, who talk about their experiences and there is a great photo of  Dr. Katz wearing his Reddit Gift!  Click here to read Parisi’s blog post.

Katz: Pressure to “whittle away” at tech free Yellowstone

By Jill Walsh
November 11th, 2014 in News, Uncategorized.

Katz comments about the move to increase bandwith in Yellowstone National Park in a recent AP article (11/3/14).  Dr. Katz spoke about the “natural experiment” he conducted last summer while traveling through the park with his teenage children, all of whom complained as soon as they lost connectivity.

Katz is the author of The Social Media President: Barack Obama and the Politics of Digital Engagement with co-authors Michael Barris and Anshul Jain (2013, Palgrave Macmillan).

November Blog Post

By Jill Walsh
November 4th, 2014 in News.

November 3, 2014  Can Social Media Use Affect Marriage Quality?

Heavy social media use requires commitment, attention, and engagement, many of the same factors required to sustain a marriage.  Yet, what  if any, are the real consequences of heavy social media use for marital relationships?  According to recent research led by Sebastian Valenzuela and Daniel Halpern of the Catholic University of Chile and the CMCS’ own James Katz, not only are the consequences real, they are largely negative.

The researchers spent two years (2008-2010) examining divorce rates and Facebook penetration and found that social media use is strongly correlated with negative feelings about marriage and an increased likelihood to contemplate divorce.  The authors note that at this point it is unclear if it is the time on Facebook that makes us less satisfied in marital relationships or if unhappy marriages lead us to more time on Facebook.

The article, Social network sites, marriage well-being and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United Statesis published in Computers in Human Behavior. 

Read more about the research study in the Pacific Standard and the Boston Business Journal.

Click Here for more information about the study on the website of BU College of Communication.

Katz: White House Media Tactic is a fairly “Low-Cost Strategy”

By Chun Yi Sum
May 13th, 2014 in In the Press.

Dr. James Katz’s comment about Obama Media Strategy includes Meteorologists appears in USA Today (5/6/2014).

Katz is the author of The Social Media President: Barack Obama and the Politics of Digital Engagement with co-authors Michael Barris and Anshul Jain (2013, Palgrave Macmillan).