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Does the Use of Technology by Adults Influence Children’s Self Worth and Behaviour?

July 22, 2014

In my June 2014 Newsletter titled The Genie Is Out The bottle! Is Technology Helping or Hindering Child Development   I discussed how this generation has grown up with technology and is much more tech savvy than their parents, certainly than their grandparents. (i)


I shared how experts in child development are now questioning how long children should spend playing with technological devices and what impact it has on their development. I cited research by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics.  


 In a recent article, 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12 (Posted: 03/06/2014), they have called on parents, teachers and governments to ban the use of all handheld devices for children under the age of 12 years. (ii)


This interesting and contemporary research caused me to question the use of technology by adults while children are in their care.


In Australia, in 2012-3 more than 7 million Australians used tablet devices such as iPads (iii) and on average 12% of an adult’s time during a week was used on screen time.  (iv)


While I would agree that technology has its advantages, and that to compete in today’s world, children need the skills to use it, as adults we should model proper technology etiquette, and show our children that they are much more important than our devices.  Following, I have included a few of the many studies I could have cited!

                                                                                                                                               Jennifer Radesky and her colleagues, who recently published a study in the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal, observed 55 caregivers eating with one or more young children in fast food restaurants. Forty caregivers used devices during their meal. 


Their studies show that while some children entertained themselves, others fought for attention and were more prone to poor behavior. Highly absorbed adults often ignored children’s behavior, had delayed responses and then responded harshly, such as scolding the child.  In addition, adults did not make eye contact with the children and at times pushed the children’s hands away if they tried to gain attention. (v)


In the article, Kids, Technology, and Moderation: Developing People Smart Skills, Julie Lemming suggests that without directly meaning to, parents often reinforce and model poor technology etiquette. They text and scroll when kids are talking to them, check and answer email at kids’ sporting events, and post status updates at the dinner table. Their parents purchase groceries while talking on the phone without acknowledging the cashier, observe texting at the movie theater, and perhaps while driving. 


She writes that there are actions parents can take to foster healthy, balanced technology use and encourage the development of interpersonal skills: These include:


  • A ban on devices at the dinner table. Research confirms that regular family meals where parents and kids have opportunities to interact and share about their day are a strong predictor of future success.

  • A ban on devices in bedrooms, with “power down” at least two hours prior to bedtime. Studies show that exposure to backlight from devices can interrupt sleep cycles, which puts kids at risk for obesity, academic problems, and behavior issues.

  • Be a positive role model by teaching children good technology etiquette.

  • Consultation is a powerful tool. So make a ‘Family Media Use’ plan if the children are older. What type of media are we going to permit?

  • Make certain times of day “media free.” Use this time, instead, to re-connect with your family members. Perhaps a “media free” day a week? (JP)

  • Point out examples of individuals who exhibit people smart skills.

  • Consider and discuss the American Academy of Pediatrics most recent guidelines for children and teens using media with your family (vi)



Dr. Judith Locke, an Australian clinical psychologist, has urged parents to reduce screen time. She writes that parents are role models for the children in their care, and their children will follow their example. Of major concern is that as adolescents, they will likely do the same as the adults in their lives, and replace human contact with technology! (vii)

As adults, what messages are our children perceiving about their worth?  That they are more important than technology, or less? What are we teaching them about good technology etiquette?  And how do these issues impact their growing perceptions of how to interact with others?

Only time will tell!


i Pepall, J., ‘The Genie Is Out The bottle!  Is Technology Helping or Hindering Children’s Development?’, June 2014,  http://www.nationaltrainingforchildrenatrisk.com/#!Is-Technology-Helping-or-Hindering-Child-Development/c1xvd/DFAF9815-89CF-4472-9C6A-FE282AA4A2F8

ii American Journal of Pediatrics, ‘10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12’,  3rd June 2014:  pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/.../peds.2013-3703.abstract

iii Australian Communications Media Authority

iv Australian Bureau of Statistics


v  Radesky, J., Kistin, C., Zuckerman, B., Nitzberg, K., Gross, J., Kaplan-Sanoff, M., Augustyn, M., and Silverstein, M.,’Patterns of Mobile Device Use by Caregivers and Children During Meals in Fast Food Restaurant’,  10th March 2014. pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/.../peds.2013-3703.abstract

vi Lemming, J., ‘Decoded Parenting, Kids, Technology, and Moderation: Developing People Smart Skills’,  17th April 2014. Decodedparenting.com/kids-technology-moderation-developing-people-

vi Sinnerton, J., ‘Parents-step away from the device before it blows up in your face’, The Courier-Mail, Australia. 28th June 2014.












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