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Smartphone overuse affecting parent-child bonds: Study

According to the latest Vivo Switch Off Research study, most Indian parents feel that excessive use of smartphones is affecting their relationships with their children

The ubiquitous presence of smartphones has affected not only their well-being but also relationships.(Pexels)

By Aisiri Amin

LAST PUBLISHED 12.12.2023  |  06:00 PM IST

If you ask about the one thing people can’t live without today, most would say it's their smartphone. It’s not just a gadget anymore. From office meetings, journaling, to entertainment, people have fit their world into their phones. However, this ubiquitous presence of smartphones has affected not only their well-being but also their relationships.

One such relationship that is pushed to the periphery is the one between parents and children. Recent findings of the fifth edition of the Vivo Switch Off Research study revealed that 90% of parents in India admit that they are spending less quality time with their children which could affect their bond. The study, titled ‘Impact of smartphones on parent-child relationship’, warns that both parents and children are lost in their phones, as their lives pass them by.

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Smartphones entered our lives as a way of making communication easier. Today, they do more than that. In the study, most parents (70%) and children (60%) acknowledged that smartphones have significantly contributed to increasing their knowledge about the world. About 60% of parents and children consider smartphones invaluable because they make their family and friends accessible.

However, when the online world, available at people’s fingertips, takes over people’s attention and lives, it affects the relationships that require time and nourishment. 

Although it’s often assumed that it’s the children who are consumed by their smartphones, the study shows that parents also cling on to them excessively. About 90% of the parents admit that they occasionally get irritated when interrupted by their children while using their smartphones. Interestingly, parents spend 7.7 hours per day with their smartphones — which is 1.2 hours more than that of children. It’s also the first and the last thing they see, most parents admitted in the study.

Furthermore, 90% of them said that they spend less quality time with their children. More than 90% of children also said that they feel lonelier because of their parents’ smartphone usage. Even when parents and children spend time, they constantly use their smartphones, which takes away value from the shared time. This indicates that parents and children are both using their phones at the cost of their relationship, which is a worrying trend, as per the findings of the study.

However, the study also shared a silver lining that 93% of parents and children share feelings of guilt about the quality of their relationships. Notably, more than 90% of parents and children want to focus on deepening family connections, indicating the acknowledgement and acceptance of overuse and a desire to course correct.

The study, commissioned by smartphone maker Vivo, was conducted by CyberMedia Research, a leading market research and advisory firm, covering more than 1,500 respondents, across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Pune.

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Turning off notifications during shared time and restricting the hours they spend on social media are some simple ways to reduce the overuse of smartphones. Researchers are also using technology to help people identify excessive use. For instance, earlier this month, researchers from Binghamton University in the US developed a tool, the Digital Media Overuse Scale, or dMOS, to make it easier for clinicians to measure digital media addictions.

Also read: How a new tool identifies overuse of digital media