Parents’ use of mobile computing devices, caregiving and the social and emotional development of children: a systematic review of the evidence

Nicola Beamish, Jane Fisher, Heather Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Mobile device use is a rapidly growing, socially acceptable interactional habit. The impact of mobile device use on social interactions, including between parents and young children, is uncertain. The aim was to describe, synthesise and evaluate the evidence about parents’ mobile device use, caregiving and children’s social and emotional development. Methods: Seven medical and social sciences databases were searched using keywords and subject headings. Screening for eligibility used PRISMA guidelines and scientific and reporting quality were assessed with standardised checklists. Results: Eight studies met the inclusion criteria (four surveys, three qualitative and one mixed-method investigation). This small group of studies is of diverse quality, but there is evidence of associations between parents’ mobile device use, attention to caregiving and changes in child behaviour. Use of mobile devices during parenting activities may be infrequent and brief, but it can be a potent distraction that reduces caregiver responsiveness to children. Conclusions: An emerging body of research suggests mobile devices are associated with altered attention and responsivity to children by their caregivers and may change caregiver/child interactions. The evidence precludes questions about causality or discussion of impacts on child development. Knowledge gaps have been identified and they require future targeted research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-143
Number of pages12
JournalAustralasian Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • caregiving
  • child development
  • children
  • smartphones

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