“Technoference” (technology-based interference) is a term used to describe how parents’ time using screen-based devices interferes with daily opportunities to talk and respond to their child. Recent studies have shown that parental smartphone use is both negatively associated with parental responsiveness and attention toward children under 3yo and associated with less engagement, harsher responses, and fewer verbal/nonverbal communications between parents and children.

A recent Australian study published in JAMA Pediatrics looked at the association between screen time and adult words spoken, child vocalizations, and parent-child interactions (or conversational turns) when children are 12 to 36 months of age. 

The study used advanced speech recognition technology to capture young children’s screen time and home language environment, on an average 16-hour day. (The technology is actually sewn into a specially designed t-shirt that records all the audio around the child while it’s worn!) Data were collected from 220 families once every 6 months in the family home when children were 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months of age. 

Adjusted mixed-effect models demonstrated that increases in screen time were associated with decreases in measures of parent-child talk. The largest decreases were seen at 36 months, when an additional minute of screen time was associated with a reduction of 6.6 (95% CI, -11.7 to -1.5) adult words, 4.9 (95% CI, -6.1 to -3.7) child vocalizations, and 1.1 (95% CI, -1.4 to -0.8) conversational turns.

These findings support the notion of technoference whereby young children’s exposure to screen time is interfering with opportunities to talk and interact in their home environment.

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