A new study found that mothers spend only 25% of their attention on their children when they are distracted by their smartphones.

This could lead to developmental problems in children and more severe consequences for mothers-children interaction.

They suspect the same goes for fathers using a mobile to browse social media and the internet, but didn’t test the assumption in the study.

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Research: Mothers devote just 25 per cent of their attention to their toddlers when distracted by a smartphone, a new study has warned (stock image)

Research: Moms spend just 25% of their attention to toddlers when their smartphone is distracting them (stock photo)

How do toddlers develop social skills? 

According to Dr Amos Grunebaum, an American obstetrician, language development accelerates between the ages two and four.

He states that around this age, children have the best vocabulary, understanding, and communication skills.

These skills can be a crucial foundation in how a child communicates with others.

A child should be able to point and label common objects by the age of two. 

The majority of 2 year olds can follow a 2-step instruction. They are capable of using more than 50 words but half of them will be difficult to understand. They are also able make sentences of more than one word.

The majority of three-year olds are able to understand two to three step commands, and can speak in up to four-word sentences.

You should find it much simpler to understand them and they will have around 200 words in their vocabulary.

They must be curious and ask lots of questions, such as why, what? who, where and when. 

They might be able identify their best friends and may even understand the meaning of place words, such as “in”, “on” and “under”. 

The conversation between them will become more open and interactive. 

Children learn more as they transition to preschool. 

They will start to understand order and time words.

You will see them become better at following complicated instructions. Your child should be able understand and hear speech in different settings.

While their pronunciation may improve, she might still have difficulty with consonants such as sh, th or l. 

It is possible that they will begin to recognize numbers and letters. You might find them able to tell stories and carry on a conversation. 

As she selects the topics that are most interesting to her, their personality will shine through. 

Instead, Dr Katy Borodkin from Tel Aviv University in Israel conducted research that involved observation of numerous mothers and babies.

The mothers were asked to perform three tasks alongside their child, all of whom were aged two to three. 

First, they had to visit a particular Facebook page and “like” videos and articles that were interesting them.

Second, they read magazines in print and marked the articles that were of interest to them.

They were given a task to complete in the third. playing with their child while the smartphone and magazines were outside the room in a space of ‘uninterrupted free play’.  

The researchers stated that the aim was to mimic real-life situations where a mother must take care of her child while also focusing some attention on her phone. 

In order to promote natural behaviours, mothers did not know the purpose of this experiment. They were able to browse a smartphone and read magazines while comparing periods of continuous free play. 

According to Dr Borodkin, ‘Mothers talked with their children up to four-times less while on their phones’. 

Researchers found that they had fewer interactions with their toddlers and the quality of those interactions were also lower. This was because the mothers gave less content-specific and immediate responses and ignored more explicit requests from the children.

Dr Borodkin added: ‘Even when they were able to respond while browsing Facebook, the quality of the response was reduced — the mothers kept their responsiveness to a bare minimum to avoid a complete breakdown in communication with the toddler.’

The researchers evaluated three aspects of mother-child interaction as the mothers completed the tasks.

Firstly they examined maternal linguistic input – the spoken content that the mother conveys to the child – which is regarded as an important predictor of a child’s speech development. 

Research has shown that children who have less vocabulary may be less proficient in linguistics than their parents. These effects can continue into adulthood.

Next the researchers looked into ‘conversational turn’. A back and forth between parent and child helps with language and social development. The child discovers that there is something he or she can contribute as part of the interaction.

To determine maternal responsiveness, we looked at how the mother responded when her child spoke. 

The child spoke first, and then the respondent was able to measure the pace of this response. 

‘We found that the three components of mother-child interaction were reduced by a factor of two to four relative to uninterrupted free play, both when the mother was reading printed magazines and browsing on her smartphone,’ said Dr Borodkin.

“In other words: The mothers spoke up to four-times less with their kids while on the phone.

They had fewer conversations with toddlers, gave less content-tailored and immediate responses and ignored more explicit requests from children.

‘Even when they were able to respond while browsing Facebook, the quality of the response was reduced — the mothers kept their responsiveness to a bare minimum to avoid a complete breakdown in communication with the toddler.’

Research led by Dr Katy Borodkin of Tel Aviv University in Israel involved observing dozens of toddlers and mothers (stock image)

Researchers led by Katy Borodkin from Tel Aviv University in Israel, conducted research that included observation of dozens toddlers and their mothers (stock picture).

Although the research did not show that smartphones or magazines distracted mothers in any way, Borodkin stated that smartphones were used more frequently than other media and that they are a serious developmental risk.

The researcher added that “there is no evidence to suggest that smartphones are affecting child development in any way.”

“But, our findings show an adverse impact upon the foundation of child developmental. It is possible to have far-reaching consequences for mother-child interaction that are not good enough.

Although the research was focused on mothers only, researchers think the same findings can be applied to dads and toddlers, as smartphone use is very similar between women and men.

The Journal of Child Development published the study.