Are parents of 'difficult' children more likely to use iPads to calm kids down?

February 29, 2016, University of Michigan Health System

It may be tempting to hand an iPad or Smartphone to a tantrum-throwing child—and maybe more so for some parents.

Children with social and emotional difficulties in low income homes were more likely to be given to calm them down or keep peace and quiet in the house, according to a small study led by a pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan.

The findings appear in a research letter in today's JAMA Pediatrics.

"We know that parents of babies and toddlers with difficult behavior disproportionately use television and videos as calming tools. We wanted to explore whether the same might be true for mobile technology like phones and tablets," says lead author Jenny Radesky, M.D., a child behavior expert and assistant professor in pediatrics at U-M's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. Radesky conducted the study while at Boston Medical Center.

"We found that the less control and more frustration parents felt over their children's behavior, the more likely they were to turn to mobile devices to help calm their kids down," she adds. "We need to further study whether this relationship between digital technology and social-emotional development difficulties applies to a more general population of parents as well, and what effect it might have on kids' longer-term outcomes."

The study included 144 healthy children ages 15-36 months in low income families. Parents were asked about the likelihood of allowing Smartphone or tablet use during different situations.

Devices were more likely to be used as a coping strategy to pacify children with difficult behavior. However, there were no differences between children with social- and other children when it came to mobile technology use during other scenarios, such as eating, being in public, doing chores or at bedtime.

"Other studies show that increased television time can hinder young 's language and social development, partly because they reduce human-to-human interaction," Radesky says.

"Now that screens can be taken anywhere, they have become part of our interpersonal space. We're interested in identifying the ways that mobile devices sometimes interfere with family dynamics, but also how we can use them as a tool to increase parent-child connection."

Explore further: Mobile and interactive media use by young children: The good, the bad and the unknown

More information: "Use of Mobile Technology to Calm Upset Children: Associations with Social-Emotional development," JAMA Pediatrics, April 2016, Volume 170, No.4. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.4260.

Related Stories

Mobile and interactive media use by young children: The good, the bad and the unknown

January 30, 2015
Mobile devices are everywhere and children are using them more frequently at young ages. The impact these mobile devices are having on the development and behavior of children is still relatively unknown. In a commentary ...

Most preschoolers use tablets, smartphones daily

November 2, 2015
(HealthDay)—Nearly all U.S. kids under age 4 have used a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone, and they are using them at earlier and earlier ages, a new study finds.

Parents sound off on mobile device use by children

April 26, 2015
Smartphones and tablets have become part of everyday life, but parents still worry that mobile devices may not be the best thing for their children, according to a study to be presented Sunday, April 26 at the Pediatric Academic ...

Mobile device use leads to few interactions between mother and child during mealtime

December 9, 2014
Moms who use mobile devices while eating with their young children are less likely to have verbal, nonverbal and encouraging interactions with them. The findings, which appear online in Academic Pediatrics, may have important ...

When smartphone is near, parenting may falter

March 10, 2014
(HealthDay)—Mealtime is supposed to be family time, but a new study suggests that ever-present smartphones are impeding parent-child communication at the table.

Early family system types predict children's emotional attention

February 16, 2016
The type of family system during pregnancy and the baby's first year predicts the way the child processes emotional information. The results of a ten-year longitudinal study conducted at the University of Tampere highlight ...

Recommended for you

Breastfeeding protects infants from antibiotic-resistant bacteria

October 18, 2018
A recent study completed at the University of Helsinki investigated the amount and quality of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in breast milk and gut of mother-infant pairs. The findings have been published in the journal Nature ...

Inflammation in the womb may explain why some babies are more prone to sepsis after birth

October 9, 2018
Each year 15 million infants are born preterm and face high risks of short- and long-term complications, including sepsis, severe inflammation of the gut, and neurodevelopmental disorders. A new report in the American Journal ...

Dummies not to blame for common speech disorder in kids

October 9, 2018
New University of Sydney research shows bottles, dummies, and thumb sucking in the early years of life do not cause or worsen phonological impairment, the most common type of speech disorder in children.

'Genes are not destiny' when it comes to weight

October 9, 2018
A healthy home environment could help offset children's genetic susceptibilities to obesity, according to new research led by UCL.

Old drug could have new use helping sick premature babies

October 8, 2018
Researchers from The University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital and Curtin University are investigating whether an old drug could be used to help very sick premature babies.

Insufficient sleep associated with risky behavior in teens

October 1, 2018
Adolescents require 8-10 hours of sleep at night for optimal health, according to sleep experts, yet more than 70 percent of high school students get less than that. Previous studies have demonstrated that insufficient sleep ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.