Postdoctoral scholar/alumna Wendy Ochoa (Tufts University, Ph.D. ’19), Professor Stephanie M. Reich, and Distinguished Professor George Farkas published an article in Academic Pediatrics analyzing the impact of caregivers’ mobile device use.
The title of the article is “The Observed Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions With and Without a Mobile Screen Device.”
Ochoa is a postdoctoral scholar in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University. Her research centers on understanding how factors such as socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, language, media, and the home environment influence parenting and child development among families with young children from ethnic minorities, particularly Latino parents. At UCI, Ochoa specialized in Human Development in Context. Dr. Reich served as her advisor.
Reich’s research foci include socio-emotional development, parent-child interactions, peer networks, and social affordances of technology. The bulk of her work explores direct and indirect influences on the child, specifically through the family, online, and school environment. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Community Research and Action. At UCI, Reich is director of the Development in Social Context Lab (DISC) and serves as the associate director of the Ph.D. in Education program. She holds additional appointments in Psychological Science and Informatics.
Farkas’s research expertise includes special education needs and consequences, pre-school readiness, disparities and impacts of childcare, children’s growth trajectories in reading, math, and science, and early interventions for students who have fallen behind in reading. His research has made a major contribution to understanding the school achievement gap for low income and ethnic minority students. Farkas has authored or co-authored four books and more than 125 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Collectively, his work has been cited more than 14,000 times. Recently, he was honored with the American Sociological Association Willard Wallen Award for lifetime achievement in the field of sociology of education. (Read more here.) At UCI, Farkas directs the Reading One-to-One Reading Program.
This study investigated how caregivers’ mobile device use influenced the quality of their interactions with their children. The associations between quality of interactions and the type of activity (eg, typing/swiping, looking at screen), setting, caregiver-child proximity, and child behaviors were also examined. Researchers anonymously and systematically observed and coded the behavior of 98 caregiver-child dyads in public settings (eg, parks, food courts) during real-time, naturally occurring interactions using time sampling. Caregivers who used a mobile device for the entire observation engaged in less joint attention and were less responsive than caregivers who used the device some of the time. When looking at patterns within caregivers who used the device intermittently, the probability that they would engage in joint attention, initiate interactions with their child, talk, and display positive emotions was lower when they used a mobile device than when they did not. Child talking and positive affect were unrelated to caregiver device use. Activity type with the device, caregiver-child proximity and setting also related to interaction quality. Caregiver device use was negatively associated with adult behaviors that are key components of high-quality caregiver-child interactions. Additionally, setting, activity type, and caregiver-child proximity are factors that should be considered because they relate to the quality of caregiver-child interactions in the context of mobile screen technologies.