by Jenna Laroque
Master of Clinical Psychology Student
Technology has a number of benefits, such as increased social support and the flexibility to work from home. However, as it has evolved, technology has become infamous for gaming and social media addictions in our youth. A study published in 2018 highlights concerns of the reverse: distractions caused by technology in adults. The paper draws on the term Technoference, referring to every day interruptions to interpersonal interactions and connections caused by smartphones, iPads, computers etc. Perhaps, the flexibility of working from home has enabled work obsessions and the deterioration of our ‘off button’. Nowadays, we continue to get work related emails and messages in evenings and on weekends. Naturally, our hardworking selves want to be efficient and therefore we find ourselves responding to such emails at all hours. However, these
Technoferences are shown to lead to deterioration in relationships and increased problem behaviours in our children, at least in the short term. These behaviours include whining, heightened sensitivity, hyperactivity and tantrums. The question becomes, how do we uphold efficient work while prioritising family time?
The answer isn’t simple. Some research has suggested dedicated “unplugged” family time. While this has not been researched extensively, some professionals suggest this may reduce problematic externalising behaviours in children and enhance interpersonal connections within the family. A reason suggested for this is that multitasking by parents, between their children and their device, makes it difficult to read and respond to their child’s emotional cues.
Another aspect to be aware of is the number of devices in the household. Literature suggests that families who have more devices report increased externalising behaviours and problematic digital technology use. The more devices within the household, the more likely it is for Technoference to take place during day-to-day interactions.
Nonetheless, finding a balance can be tricky and each family may be different due to their own circumstances. Families are encouraged to be aware of their screen time and how this may impact their family dynamics and their children’s behaviours.
Main paper referred to: McDaniel, B. T., & Radesky, J. S. (2018). Technoference: Parent distraction with technology and associations with child behavior problems. Child development, 89(1), 100-109