Moms and Dads, Put Down Your Mobile Phones! Hunter Study Shows That Parents’ Distraction by Mobile Devices May Hinder Infant Social-Emotional Development

The journal Developmental Science has just published a cautionary new study led by Hunter’s Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, professor of psychology. Moms and Dads, Put Down Your Mobile Phones! Hunter Study Shows That Parents’ Distraction by Mobile Devices May Hinder Infant Social-Emotional Development

Professor Dennis-Tiwary and her colleagues examined the impact of parents’ mobile-device use on infants aged 7 to 24 months. The researchers focused on three periods of mother-child interaction:  (1) playful contact between a mother and her baby, (2) the mother’s mobile device time, (3) the “reunion,” when the mother’s attention returned to the baby.

“We found that infants expressed more distress, and explored less, during maternal device use compared to the free play and reunion periods. Moreover, greater habitual use of mobile devices by mothers outside the lab predicted less emotional recovery in infants during the reunion period,” Professor Dennis-Tiwary said. “Results suggest that, like other forms of maternal withdrawal and unresponsiveness, mobile-device use can have a negative impact on infant social-emotional functioning and parent-child interactions.”

Hunter graduate student Sarah Myruski and research assistant Olga Gulyayeva ’14, both members of Professor Dennis-Tiwary’s lab team, were among the Developmental Science article’s five co-authors.