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Smartphones may cause distracted parenting

A Boston Medical Center study found a third

A Boston Medical Center study found a third of parents use their mobile devices while dining out with their kids. Credit: Fotolia

You've heard of distracted driving, and smartphones now may be to blame for distracted parenting, a new study says.

Researchers from Boston Medical Center followed random families in 15 local fast food restaurants and observed the interactions between family members, noting in particular the reactions children had when a parent swiped through their smartphones.

The study, published in the journal "Pediatrics," found 40 of the 55 families observed were absorbed in their mobile devices, according to ABC News. Mom and Dad seemed more distracted when they were typing and making swiping motions with their fingers than when making phone calls. About a third of the parents used their devices continuously throughout the meal.

Although you may think checking email for a few minutes won't affect your children, the study found that in fact, it does. According to Time, the kids in the study tried many tactics to grab their parent's attention -- "one child reached over in an attempt to lift his mother's face while she looked down at a tablet. Another mother kicked her child under the table in response to the child's attempts to get her attention while she looked at her phone." One set of siblings sang "Jingle bells, Batman smells" to get their dad's attention.

"What stood out was that in a subset of caregivers using the device almost through the entire meal, how negative their interactions could become with the kids," Jenny S. Radesky, a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and lead author of the study, told Time. "There were a lot of instances where there was very little interaction, harsh interaction or negative interaction between the adults and children."

Bottom line: When you're with your kids, don't text and eat.

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