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“Technoference”: How Screen Time Could Be Disrupting Parent-Child Relationships

Discover how screen time habits impact parent-child bonds. Learn how to reclaim meaningful moments and strengthen your connection with your child.


Most people will tell you that screen time is bad for children and child-parent relationships. It’s not uncommon for teachers to send home reports with one big task for parents: curb screen time. 

Is there any truth to this notion that screen time is poisoning parent-child relationships and children’s health? 

Yes and no. 

The correlation between screen time and child health is complicated; most studies have found that it’s not the screen time that’s the issue, it’s how the screentime is being used. When it is used as a distraction, it is detrimental. However, if it is used to educate or connect, it can be a protective factor against many mental health issues. 

The same is true for child-parent relationships. A study done in Switzerland found that parent-child relationships suffered equally if a parent was distracted via a tablet or via a non-technology item. 

This article will go over the intricacies of technology’s impact on children and their relationship with their parents and provide some practical advice to strengthen your relationship with your child and their mental health. 

What is Technoference?

Scientists define technoference as “parents’ use of technological devices that interferes with or interrupts everyday normal family relations and interactions, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, mealtimes, and leisurely time together.” It can include phones, tablets, computers, and watching TV. 

But does technoference negatively affect parent-child relationships and child health? 

The answer is complicated. 

Studies have found that children using screens can increase learning and education. However, when used in excess, it can negatively influence executive functioning and, when introduced early, cognitive abilities. 

It comes down to how the screen is used: Multi-tasking media (like scrolling social media while watching TV or watching TV while doing homework) can accentuate negative screen time effects. Excessive screen time has similar negative effects. If the child has a large online support community, however, that is a protective factor against many mental health disorders. 

The same is true for technoference and parent-child relationships. The Switzerland study found that parents who were distracted by a paper survey suffered similar impairments in their relationship with their child as parents who were distracted by a survey on a tablet. 

This suggests that it’s not the technology that is influencing our relationship with our kids, it’s the fact that we’re distracted. 

How can parents increase their connection with their child

If your relationship with your child is suffering, don’t panic and toss all your electronics. Slow down and be present with them. Mental health professionals recommend these tips to forge a stronger bond with your child: 

  1. Be present: The main culprit disrupting your relationship with your child isn’t technology, it’s distractions. So, be intentional with your time with your child. If they are self-sufficient, let them play independently while you take some me-time so you can be fully present when you are playing together. 
  2. Work on your own self-efficacy: Self-efficacy is the belief that you can do hard things and figure things out. Studies have found that parents with higher levels of self-efficacy mitigated the effect of parent distress. Parent distress generally led to child distress, but this correlation was negated if the parent exhibited high levels of self-efficacy. So, believe in yourself and work on skills that make you feel confident. 
  3. Have intentional time: Many families have done away with family dinner, and although there’s nothing inherently negative about that, it can have negative implications when not replaced with other intentional family time. Part of cutting down distractions is being intentional, so structure some family time around hanging out with each other. 
  4. Communicate effectively: Teaching your child how to communicate effectively is one of the greatest skills you can teach them. If they can tell you when they’re feeling lonely, sad, or want your attention, you won’t have to guess at what they’re feeling. 
  5. Play together: If your child is too young to communicate or participate in family meals and the like, then set aside time to play together. Creative play especially has great positive effects on child health. 

Children model behavior they see done, so if you are on your screen all day, they will likely want to be as well. Set a good example by being present and intentional. 

Technoference: Should we panic? 

Screen time isn’t going away anytime soon, and as more and more things go virtual, it’s unrealistic to expect people to cut it out entirely. Instead, it’s important to model healthy screen-time habits. Be intentional with how you use your screens and try to limit multitasking on screens when possible. 

In general, the problem isn’t technology but a heavily distracted society. Strive to stay present, and your relationship with your child will improve. 

Healing Child-Parent Relationships Through Therapy

Child-parent relationships are vital but can sometimes face challenges. Therapy provides a safe space to address communication issues, build trust, and foster understanding. Through therapy, both children and parents can explore their feelings, learn effective ways to communicate, and strengthen their bond.

Therapists at Lifebulb Counseling and Therapy offer specialized guidance and support to help mend these relationships. Reach out today to start your journey towards a healthier and happier connection with your child.

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