Science Says, Your Cell Phone Use Disrupts Your Child’s Learning

How many times have you been in the middle of feeding your child, reading them a bedtime story, or just sitting next to them on the couch and your phone goes off? A call, text, Facebook messenger – they all distract us from the current moment.

mom on phone while near child

Something I am certainly guilty of!

While it seems innocent enough to quickly answer that call, text or message and get back to that conversation with your child, science says otherwise.

mom on phone

Science Says, Your Cell Phone Use Disrupts Your Child’s Learning

A recent article published by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that parent-child conversations that are interrupted by cell phone use disrupts a child’s learning especially when it comes to word learning.

teaching toddlers words

The study was originally conduced and published in Developmental Psychology by psychologists Jessa Reed, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and Roberta Golinkoff in 2017 who explored the effects of cell-phone interruptions during parent-child interactions on toddlers’ word learning.

The study took parents and their 2-year old children to participate in a lab-based study at Temple University.

Parents were asked to teach their child 2 new verbs and try to teach their child what that new word meant within 60 seconds.

child learning

One of these words were taught during an uninterrupted setting which meant the parent did not use their cell phone during that time. That meant a full 60-seconds of teaching their child a new word.

The second word was taught during an interrupted setting where the parent received a phone call 30 seconds after starting to teach their child a new word. They’d have a 30 second phone conversation then would resume teaching their child the same word for another 30 seconds.

mom on phone holding child

After these segments, children were tested on their knowledge of the words taught to them and here is what they found:

“Results suggested that children only learned the words in the uninterrupted condition — when the teaching period was not interrupted by a cell phone call. Interruptions of the sort that we experience everyday from calls and texts that randomly poke into our dynamically unfolding social conversations derail conversations and child learning.” (Source)

Reading this made me realize that I am guilty of this.

I get caught up thinking that I need to answer this message or this email right away but in reality, it can wait. A message or call going unanswered for a few minutes, isn’t going to hurt anyone.

And honestly, this is a huge wake up call.

I never realized that my own actions on my cell phone would inhibit my child’s learning but it entirely makes sense.

Aside from the learning aspect, our children deserve our undivided attention. We have to fully immerse ourselves in the moments with our children because those are moments we cannot get back.

mom reading book to child

I plan to put my phone on silent or leave it another room when I am with my children. 

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