Parenting in the Smartphone Era: Effects on Child Development

In accordance with the study by the Concordia University of Nebraska, an intro to technology can benefit children in navigating different operating systems and becoming more technologically literate. As stated by an independent research company, Common Sense, around 42% of households around the world with children under 8 have access to personal devices. The excessive pattern of usage of smartphones has diverse effects on behavior, emotional development, cognition, and physiological health. A research study from 2020 with a sample size of 121 children remarks that children to their own devices, tablets (n =100), and smartphones ( n =21) was 115.3 minutes.

The major reason why parents have provided their wards with smartphones is to a) to make it easy for their wards to get in touch with them b) to keep them entertained c) to help with their homework d) their friends, and classmates have mobile phones (PEW RESEARCH CENTER).
In addition to details about the engagement of children with smartphones, it was discovered that 36% of children under the age of 8 owning personal devices used the voice-activated assistance feature to listen to music, hear jokes or play games.

Cognitive Development

Three aspects of cognition frequently discussed in public discourse regarding the impacts of mobile technology are attention, memory, and the delay of gratification.


The research done offers some initial support for claims about how smartphone technology affects our ability to pay attention. While it’s clear that using smart devices can momentarily disrupt our focus on tasks, there’s not much solid evidence yet about the long-term effects of smartphone habits on our attention span.

What we do know suggests that using smartphones frequently is linked to poorer attention, but most of the evidence comes from surveys and people reporting on their own habits. When researchers have done more controlled studies on attention, like looking at how well people can focus while doing multiple things at once, the results are mixed. In fact, some studies even suggest that heavy smartphone users might be better at filtering out distractions. However, the way we currently measure smartphone use and attention varies a lot between studies, which might explain some of these conflicting results.


The research exploring how smartphone habits affect our memory and knowledge is still limited, but what’s available suggests that using smartphones might not always be good for our ability to remember things. While the studies conducted so far have some flaws in how they were set up, they do raise some concerns about how we use modern technology. It seems that when we rely on smartphones, we tend to learn and remember less from our experiences. It’s important to note, though, that the idea of using external tools to help with memory isn’t new. Take the Rolodex, for example, invented back in the 1950s. It was a handy tool for organizing contacts, sparing people the need to memorize every phone number or address. So, whether relying on smartphones for memory is really worse than using older tools is something researchers will need to explore further.

Delay Of Gratification

The evidence on how smartphones affect our ability to delay gratification and process rewards is still too limited to draw solid conclusions. Bold statements claiming that smartphones are completely changing how our brains work and making us addicted to instant gratification, lack support from long-term studies or solid evidence. However, researchers are starting to use brain imaging techniques to explore if using smartphones might actually be changing our brains in some way.

So far, studies have mainly looked at what parts of the brain are active when people use their phones for different activities, but they haven’t been able to show whether smartphones are causing any real changes in how our brains function or are structured. To really understand this, researchers might need to do brain scans on people before and after they spend a long time using smartphones to see if anything changes in how their brains are wired up.

Addictive Smartphone Behaviour

Using smartphones excessively can have physical and psychological downsides, similar to addiction, without necessarily being a serious disorder. For instance, constantly texting on smartphones can strain the neck and shoulders, leading to discomfort and changes in muscle performance.Too much smartphone use can also affect mental health, causing issues like depression and sleep problems. While using social platforms on smartphones can have positive effects on social connections, excessive use can lead to negative outcomes like anxiety and decreased sleep quality. For teenagers, managing smartphone use is crucial for maintaining healthy sleep habits, which in turn impacts growth, emotional stability, and learning abilities. These excessive habits often result in what psychologists refer to as PSU ( Problematic Smartphone Use), which is often associated with anxiety symptoms, poor-quality sleep cycles, and depressive episodes.

Both how people use smartphones for tasks and social interaction are linked to higher levels of problematic smartphone use (PSU), meaning excessive smartphone use increases the risk of PSU. PSU shows different patterns depending on age, with characteristics like seeking authority and mood changes being more common in younger children, while traits like impatience and withdrawal symptoms are more prevalent in adolescents.

For instance, traits like grandiose narcissism are associated with higher PSU, while vulnerable narcissism’s impact is mostly due to a lack of interest. PSU can also negatively impact teenagers’ self-esteem, with procrastination playing a role in this association, and teenagers may be more prone to addiction due to difficulties regulating impulsive behavior.

People who seek out exciting experiences may be more prone to excessive smartphone use. Smartphones offer a variety of activities that can alleviate boredom, and individuals with higher levels of sensation-seeking tend to overuse smartphones more. This overuse can become addictive, especially when individuals have strong motivations to achieve goals through smartphone use.

Mitigation Strategies

To minimize the risk and adverse effects of smartphone excessive use here are some strategies.

  1. Establish guidelines for phone usage, such as no phones during meal times or while doing homework, and ensure your child sticks to a routine.
  2. Implement a rule that devices should be kept out of bedrooms at night to promote better sleep for your kids. Create a schedule for when devices should be put away and when they can be used.
  3. Encourage outdoor activities like gardening or visiting parks to engage your kids and divert their attention away from their phones.
  4. Delay giving your child a smartphone until they are mature enough to understand responsible usage.
  5. Use parental control apps to oversee and manage your child’s phone activities, safeguarding them from online risks.
  6. Inspire your child to explore their creativity through activities like painting or storytelling instead of relying solely on their phone.
  7. Plan family outings and activities to reduce your child’s reliance on their phone and strengthen family bonds.
  8. Set a positive example for your child by limiting your own phone usage and spending quality time together.
Exit mobile version