Close icon
Close icon


Blog: The Role of Smartphones in Parent-Child Interactions: Capturing Parents’ Perspectives

by Psychology

Technology has become an integral part of everyday life, with most households having access to multiple devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets. Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures and lockdowns, devices have been used to work, entertain, educate, and to stay socially connected while families are confined to the home. Smartphones, in particular, have become one of the most frequently used devices, due to their portability and functionality. Currently, literature suggests many parents are aware of the potential impact of technology use upon their families (e.g. Genc, 2014). Many parents report feeling concerned about the detrimental effects of mobile device use on their children, such as exposure to inappropriate content and increased sedentary behaviour. However, parents also recognise the positive role smartphones can play in family life, acknowledging them not only as a source of entertainment, but as an educational tool for learning in the home.

While much of the research exploring the role of technology within families focuses on child smartphone use, there is an emerging body of research exploring the impact of parental smartphone use on infants, children, and adolescents. This research explores how parental device use effects children’s outcomes across a number of domains, including development, mental health, and behaviour. International research to date has found that parents report mixed feelings in relation to their own smartphone use. Many parents acknowledge the positive role of smartphones in their lives, in helping them to stay connected to others through messaging and social networking sites, and acting as a source of stress relief when parents are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of daily life (Johnson & Hertlein, 2019). However, parents have also acknowledged that their smartphone use can act as a barrier when it comes to paying attention to the “here and now”, particularly when spending time with children (e.g. Kushlev & Dunn, 2019; Radesky, et al., 2016).

We are currently undertaking research to explore how Irish parents feel about their own smartphone use, and what impact they think their device use has upon their children. Capturing parent perspectives helps to further our understanding of parental smartphone use and the impact this may have upon families in Ireland. Ultimately, technology is an unavoidable part of modern living. Therefore, it is helpful to learn how families are utilising technology in their day-to-day lives, and to explore aspects of device use that may either facilitate or act as barriers towards positive family functioning. If you are a parent of a child aged 12 years or under, and are interested in this research, please follow the link below to find out more and to take part:

Hannah Browne is currently studying for the Professional Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology at Mary Immaculate College under the supervision of Drs. Suzanne Egan & Marc Scully of the Department of Psychology, and Dr Laura Ambrose of the Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive and Special Education.