SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Comparing Latino Moms and Dads: Use of Mobile Screen Technologies for Managing Child Behaviors (Poster)
Session: Parenting & Parent-Child Relationships
Authors: Esmeralda Martin, Wendy Ochoa, Stephanie Reich
Abstract: Today, there is more access to mobile screen technologies than ever before, making these more readily available to parents from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Recent research suggests that parents often use smartphones and tablets to manage their children’s behavior (Radesky et al., 2016). Some behavior management strategies include using the device to punish, distract, or reward children. Unfortunately, the limited amount of research has predominantly focused on middle-class, White mothers (Radesky et al., 2014). We know very little about how ethnic minority and socioeconomically diverse mothers and fathers might also use mobile devices as behavior management tools. Latino parents, especially fathers, have been excluded from previous studies, even though Latinos are more likely to use mobile screen technology than individuals other ethnic groups (Pew Research Center, 2015).
Because the behavior management strategies parents engage in are related to the healthy development of children, especially during the first few years of life, it is important to understand if and how ethnically and linguistically diverse parents are incorporating technology into their discipline practices. To address this gap, 40 Latino parents (20 mothers and 20 fathers) of children under 4 years of age, from diverse socioeconomic statuses (SES) were interviewed in English and/or Spanish. During the in-depth, semi-structured interviews, parents were asked about the ways in which they might have used mobile technology to manage the behavior of their children. Consistent with previous studies, both moms and dads often report using mobile screen technologies to distract, calm, reward, or punish their children. Most parents viewed mobile screen technologies as a tool for self-entertainment, and therefore, was beneficial for distracting their children for long periods of time either at home or in public places. For example, parents reported giving the child their device on long car rides, at the doctor’s office, while shopping, when the child expressed being bored or when the child needed calming. Parents also reported using mobile screen technologies, like their phone or tablet, in order to calm the child down and control their behavior (e.g. the child yelling while shopping or getting out of the shopping cart).
In comparing mothers and fathers, results showed that fewer mothers reported using mobile screen technologies to reward or punish their children’s behavior than fathers. Mothers more frequently expressed their dislike with the use of tablets/smartphone as a reward and punishment system for their children’s behavior.
Thus far, little is known about how mobile technologies are related to parenting styles for mothers and fathers and how those behaviors might influence young children’s development. Both parents play a critical role in a child’s life therefore it is important to include both in studies of new media (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2004). Mobile technology is highly prevalent in our lives and understanding how mothers and fathers are using it to manage their children’s behavior is critical for understanding their impact on children’s development. This study is an important first step in understanding how parents from diverse, socioeconomic backgrounds use mobile screen technology with their children.