Contrary to popular views, parental smartphone use is rarely associated with poor parenting, and more often than not, tends to be associated with warm and attached parenting, a Griffith University-led study has found.

Published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers from the School of Applied Psychology analysed 3,659, parent-based surveys*, and tested 12* different measures of smart phone use, to assess associations between smartphone use and parenting and found little evidence of a direct link.

They then explored if the effect of phone use on parenting depended on whether or not it displaced time with family and was associated with family conflict.

At low levels of displacing time with family, more smartphone use was associated withbetternot worse parenting.

“Parental smartphone use has been demonised as a risk to families, by various sectors of the community and media,’’ says lead researcher Dr Kathryn Modecki, also a member of Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“But across diverse family environments, smartphones play multiple roles in family life, including provision of social support and information, and allowing for work and digital errands.”

“As long phones are not heavily impacting on family time, smartphones tend to be tied to positive (and not negative) parenting.”

“The challenge with much of the technology-family literature is that is has mainly stemmed from an assumption of risk and problems.

Dr Kathryn Modecki

“As a result, small and uneven findings can become the focus of media, policymakers, and parents. This is an issue because it can cloud our insight as we consider ways to meaningfully assist parents and families to enhance positive outcomes via information and support online.”

The researchers used a transparent approach to map 84 ways smartphones could link to family wellbeing, using common self-report measures.

“We found very little evidence of problems and hope this study helps move us towards more constructive and nuanced conversations around families’ diverse experiences with technology, actual risks associated with parenting, and where we can best support,’’ Dr Modecki said.

The study was supported by Menzies Health Institute Queensland and co-authors are members of Murdoch University and Edith-Cowan University.