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Technology and Parent-Child Bonding
Technology and Parent-Child Bonding Time—Quality Time is Not Created Equal

By Jacob Merkley on February 16, 2021

The Parent-Child Relationship: At the Core of Society

The parent-child relationship is one of the most important relationships we form in life. Researchers have long since studied this relationship to understand its impact on a child’s lifespan development.

A conclusion drawn from several of these studies is that technology is crippling the parent-child relationship, specifically regarding the quality of bonding time.

I know it’s a bold claim, but I want to show you six studies that prove this is true.

But we also live in the tech age. We should not put ourselves, or our children, in a basement for the rest of our lives. Technology can and should be embraced and used.

Stick with me until the end, and I will share five technology-approved activity ideas. They will help you embrace technology correctly to increase bonding with your children.

Let’s jump in.

Study #1 - Pew Research - Time Spent With Children Comparison

Study #1 – Pew Research – Time Spent With Children Comparison

The Pew Research organization conducted an extensive study of parents and children in 2011. One of the research components compared how much time parents spent with children today versus almost 50 years before 1965.

They concluded that fathers have nearly tripled their time with their children, from 2.5 hours in 1965 to 7.3 hours per week in 2011. Mothers have also increased their time with children even though more mothers are now in the workforce.

Study #2 - Early Childhood Longitudinal Program (ECLS)

Study #2 – Early Childhood Longitudinal Program (ECLS)

The ECLS conducted a study of 14,000 children that were born in 2001. They studied them from the age of nine months through kindergarten.

Researchers found that 40% of children lacked a strong emotional bond with their parents during the study. They connected this lack of emotional bond to a lack of success later on in life. This same group (40%) faced increased educational and behavioral problems.

Alternatively, the 60% of children that had a “secure attachment” with their parents were better able to manage their feelings and behaviors. By tuning in and responding to their children’s needs, parents provided a framework for future life success.

Learn more about this study.

Study #3 - Pew Research - Parents Admit Too Much Technology

Study #3 – Pew Research – Parents Admit Too Much Technology

The Pew research conducted a different survey around parenting in the age of screens. I want to point out two specific observations:

When asked if they spend too much, too little, or not enough time on their phone, 56% of parents admitted they spend too much time on their smartphone.

68% of parents say they are at least sometimes distracted by their phone when spending time with their children. 

Learn more about this study.

Study #4 - National Center for BioTechnology Information - Tech During Dinner Time

Study #4 – National Center for Biotechnology Information – Tech During Dinner Time

In 2013, researchers observed 55 groups of parents with children aged 0 – 10 years old. They watched as they ate together in fast food restaurants across 15neighborhoods in Boston.

Of the 55 parents, 40 of them used a mobile device during dinner (72%). They also evaluated 16 parents that used their device “almost constantly” (29%) and had a “high level of absorption”. They remarked that this group had very little attention and engagement with their children.

However, there was a more shocking trend with these 16 parents. When the kids tried to get their tech-absorbed parents’ attention they were scolded or physically pushed away.

Learn more about this study.

Study #5 - AVG Technologies - The Feeling of Unimportance

Study #5 – AVG Technologies – The Feeling of Unimportance

AVG Technologies conducted a survey to determine how children reacted to their parents using technology. They surveyed 6,000 families in ten countries with kids in the 8-13-year-old range. The survey concluded that 54% of children said their parents checked their mobile devices too often. Not surprisingly, 32% of children reported feeling “unimportant” when mom or dad turned to their phones to check something out while spending time with them.

Learn more about this study.

Study 6 - Quality parent-child bonding time

Study #6 – 72 Point Survey – 37 Average Minutes of Quality Time

72 Point is a polling and survey company in California. They surveyed 2,000 parents with school-aged children across the country. They found that American families get just 37 minutes of quality time per day. Quality time does jump up to 2 hours 40 minutes on weekend days. Still, I question if that time is genuinely quality-based (see study #3 and study #5).

Learn more about this study.

Bringing All Six Studies Together

We can draw several conclusions from bringing all six of these surveys together. All six of them weave a pattern of technology abuse driving a wedge through the parent-child relationship.

Other conclusions:

  • Parents indeed have more face time with their children now than almost any parents in history. However, the engagement between parent and child is increasingly low-quality.
  • Parents are losing their ability to stay emotionally tuned to their children.
  • These surveys were conducted five years ago. This leads me to believe that the levels to which parents connect with their children have decreased even more.
  • I think it’s also safe to say that many parents are addicted to their phones and other technology in many ways.
  • While technology has its purpose and use, children feel they miss out on necessary bonding experiences with their parents. 

I’m sure other parallels can be discovered by connecting these six studies. To be blunt, as parents, we ought to do better to develop and connect with our children. We are simply not giving them the attention they need when we are highly engaged in our addicted-media-driven state of mind.

They need to bond with us.

They need to feel loved by us.

They need to know that we can focus on them, even if just for a short while.

They deserve our undivided attention throughout the day to support their growth and development.

Using Technology to Bond

While I agree that our children need time to bond with us without using mobile devices and technology, I also know that we live in a technological age. Our kids will all be techy-geniuses in a few years anyway. Welcome to the modern-day tech dilemma. We should want to help our children embrace technology. But we can’t sacrifice our relationship with them for the sake of technology.

We need to help them realize that quality bonding time can happen both without and at times with technology.

We all have a list of good bonding activities that we can do without technology (coloring, playing at the park, dancing together, etc.)

Instead, I wanted to share some bonding activities that we can do with technology that won’t cripple the parent-child relationship. Instead, it will enhance it.

Bonding the Right Way

  1. Play a card, board, or strategy game on the same device—pass-and-play style. By using the same device, you have to sit close and engage more. 
  2. Another style game is the group game. Heads-Up or another charade-type game is excellent to play and interact with.
  3. Listen to music and dance with each other!
  4. Use the device to listen to an audiobook and then discuss it with each other.
  5. Go on a virtual safari – Take them to Africa with your mobile device and check out different animals.
  6. You can educate through digital coloring, digital learning, etc.
  7. Say hello to faraway relatives over video chat.
  8. Play digital games together. Remember the days of Mario Cart or playing the Wii for a family night? These are great games to play together and have a ton of fun. 

The list could go on. If you notice, though, the activities in the above list should be done together. That’s where the magic happens—on the same device or in person, interacting together.

The bottom line, technology is a beautiful thing as long as it doesn’t get in the way of a meaningful relationship. Make sure you spend time away from devices altogether. But when you are on them, do things together.

Want to Take Our Technology-Bonding Solution For a Test Spin?

Story Tyke also has a unique way to help parents bond through their mobile device, by telling bedtime stories.

We help busy modern parents bridge the gap between old traditional storytellers.

Add Story Tyke to your nightly routine to enhance bonding and tell stories about fun and engaging characters that your kids will love. Most stories take 5-7 minutes to tell, and your kids will enjoy bonding with you again and again.

Jacob Merkley, Founder and CEO at Story Tyke

Written by Jacob Merkley, Founder and CEO

As CEO, Jacob focuses on helping families all over the world discover and love Story Tyke. His goal is to help parents increase bonding time with their children through easier storytelling. He is a proud husband to the girl he met in an elevator and is the proud father of three kids under six. His education and career pursuits have included a BS in accounting, an MBA, and over ten years in accounting and sales.

Jacob Merkley, Founder and CEO at Story Tyke

Written by Jacob Merkley, Founder and CEO

As CEO, Jacob focuses on helping families all over the world discover and love Story Tyke. His goal is to help parents increase bonding time with their children through easier storytelling. He is a proud husband to the girl he met in an elevator and is the proud father of three kids under six. His education and career pursuits have included a BS in accounting, an MBA, and over ten years in accounting and sales.

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