Study finds that mothers’ screen time can be ‘damaging to toddlers’ development as they spend only 25% of their attention on phones while surfing the web.

  •  An experiment, carried out by Israeli scientists, involved 33 mothers and their two-year-old children carrying out three tasks to measure response time 
  • Researchers believe that these interactions can have far-reaching consequences. 
  • This research could also apply to fathers, and children.  

Mothers who spend a lot of time on their smartphone while looking after their toddlers could be posing ‘a significant threat’ to the children’s development, say experts.

A study found that only 25% of them pay attention to children while browsing the web on their smartphones.

Research suggests that these poor relationships between mothers and children can have devastating consequences.

Because men and women both use phones the same way it seems that these findings will also apply to their fathers. Israeli scientists carried out the study with 33 mothers, their children aged two years old, and other subjects. 

The mums were asked to perform three tasks while they were looking after their toddlers – browse a Facebook page, read printed magazines or play with the child while phones and magazines were outside the room.

The consequences of these inadequate interactions between mothers and their children could be far-reaching, researchers said

Researchers found that the consequences of insufficient interactions between mother and child could have far-reaching effects.

Lead researcher Dr Katy Borodkin said: ‘The mothers were unaware of the purpose of the experiment, so they behaved naturally by splitting their interest between the toddlers and the smartphone and magazines. We videotaped all the interactions and later scanned the recordings frame by frame in an attempt to quantify the mother-child interaction.’

Tel Aviv University researchers analysed interactions between mothers and toddlers. They looked at what the mother said to the child – which is an important predictor of how a child develops language – whether the toddler responded, and how quickly the mother replied.

Dr Borodkin said: ‘The mothers talked up to four times less with their children while they were on their smartphone. 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.’

These findings were published in Child Development.

‘However, it is clear that we use smartphones much more than any other media, so they pose a significant developmental threat,’ Dr Borodkin said.