A new study suggests that parenting newborns and babies while distracted by cell phones can have potentially long-term negative effects. Before you let the hand-wringing begin, however, keep in mind that the study was done on rats, not humans — and cell phones were not involved! Instead, researchers at the University of California at Irvine created environments where mother rats were distracted from fully-focused parenting by putting them in environments that lacked sufficient material for nesting and bedding.
The result? Mama rats were partially distracted from raising their pups. The impact, according to the study, was distracted parents raised rats that consistently ate less of the sugar solution and spent less of their time playing and chasing their peers than the rats raised in the normal setting. And here’s the kicker: The rats in the modified setting spent as much time with their mothers as the control group, but it was the quality of that time and attention that was crucial.
Read more here.
This isn’t the first example of the perils of digitally distracted parenting: Another study examined the behavior of children of digitally distracted parents. The findings showed that parents who were highly absorbed in their devices, keeping their gaze primarily on their device, even when answering questions, tended to respond more harshly to their children’s misbehavior.
But before you come down hard on your phone-checking ways, read this article for a little levity to the topic.