Are parent behaviours with their use of technology having an impact on their child’s development?

I recently attended a very intriguing keynote presentation from Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair titled: Lost in Connection: How The Tech Effect Puts Children’s Development at Risk

I was preparing to listen to more information about how children are using technology and the negative effect of this on their development. Certainly, this would fit with some of the concerns that parents raise about their children and how technology is impacting upon their lives. There is, perhaps, even more concern given that many schools use 1 to 1 laptop programs and iPads are also rapidly being introduced to compliment classroom instruction from teachers.

I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised that the presentation that Dr. Steiner-Adair gave was not about this at all. It was, in fact, about the behaviours of parents with technology and the impact that these behaviours are having on children.

While I certainly did not agree with every aspect of her talk, some excellent points were made for us to consider in our role as parents and, for that matter, as teachers:

  • How attached are we to our mobile devices?
  • How often are we checking for emails, messages and notifications?
  • How we are using mobile technology to record many aspects of our lives and also those of our children?

Three things really stuck in my mind. Firstly, when we hear a notification alert on our mobile device and how that makes us feel. For many of us, there is that instant need to break free of what we are currently doing to attend to that notification. So many important moments that we spend with our children can be interrupted by our mobile devices, that when we try to return to the conversation, the moment, it has passed, we cannot recapture it and children see that.

Secondly, how often do we respond to children, “I am just checking my…, WeChat, Facebook etc”? Does this happen so often that our devices get in the way of more timely and appropriate responses, so our children feel important and do not come after the device?

Digital Disconnect

How much is technology affecting big events? The picture above was taken recently when the Pope visited the United States. The compulsion that nearly all the adults in the photo have to record the moment to say “I was there,” is quite incredible. One person (circled) does not need a device to remember the event, she will put it to memory, which will not fade and she will cherish. As a society we seem to have bought into filming or photographing everything that we see. When students perform on stage, they look at a sea of mobile devices recording their every move as apposed to the happiness on the faces of their parents behind those cameras and phones. I know what I would prefer to see.

I encourage you all to consider how your digital life and use of mobile devices is impacting on your children’s / student’s development and make some changes.

My instant commitment from the presentation that I attended is: No technology in first hour when my son wakes in the morning; he deserves my full attention.

Connect with @richard_bruford

Originally posted on


  1. Sara Carter said:

    My father was just as distracted with his morning paper when I awoke in the mornings. Never looked up while having his breakfast.

    November 6, 2015
    • Thanks for contributing Sata.

      Great point, but I am sure you did not want his morning paper? I am sure our kids would love to have our mobile devices; beats a boring paper.

      As I mentioned, I did not agree with all the things that were mentioned in Dr Steiner-Adair’s presentation but her work has allowed me to reflect and I wanted to share that with others. It certainly crossed my mind that we could say that 20 years ago our parents were distracted by TV and newspapers. Everything in moderation, right?

      What worries me is that there is so much attention given to the dangers of kids and technology that the adult behaviours are so often ignored. Apples do not fall far from the tree in some instances. Not all, but some.

      November 6, 2015
  2. Hey Pal,

    I really dug this reminder. Particularly the notion that when we pick up our devices and tune out our kids, we are sending messages about what’s really important to our children.

    The constant-ness of devices — and of the potential distractions that surround us — is what’s so dangerous. While my dad read the paper from cover to cover too, there was an eventual end to the paper. And while he watched TV when he got home from work, there was only three channels to choose from — and nothing DVRed that he needed to “catch up” on.

    We live in a world where we could fill our entire lives with things other than our kids. That’s the truth. And we need to wrestle with it.

    Anyway…gotta run. Trying to get home to my girl this morning!


    November 8, 2015
    • Thanks for the comment Bill. Rapidly changing times means lots to reflect upon. To some extent it is how all consuming technology can become that, I think, we are losing sight of the here and now and enjoying the moment. That’s not to say that technology does not provide enjoyment but we are becoming desensitized to many things without knowing it.

      There are some great studies how texting is leading to our decline in ability to understand tone in speech. Also, I am particularly interested in the concept of Digital Amnesia.

      Best wishes

      November 10, 2015

Comments are closed.