Technoference: a new phenomenon

Fact: Technology is everywhere.

Fact: Technology demands our attention.

Fact: Technology disengages us from our surroundings.

The common denominator, in all the above facts, is pretty easy to spot, isn’t it? It’s ‘technology’.

Yet, if ‘technology’ is not explicitly pointed out to us, why aren’t we capable of recognising its presence and therefore, its influence?

This is possibly because technology has become such a pervasive influence in our lives and we haven’t yet been conditioned to be aware of its impact on family life.

What is technoference?

Technoference is a term first coined by Assistant Professor Brandon McDaniel of Human Development and Family Science in 2012.

The term incorporates two aspects: technology and interference.

It essentially defines the technology-based interruptions in parent-child interactions and how this, in turn, effects the associated behaviour of children.

Surprisingly though, according  to McDaniel, these technological interruptions can be as minor as “the beeps and the buzzes that just happen all the time because our phones are constantly with us.”

Many people may roll their eyes at the notion of a few buzzes and beeps causing a change in their child’s behaviours; however, a recent study conducted by McDaniel and his co-author Jenny Radesky have found a link between the two.

In fact, the study showed that on average 40% of mothers and 32% of fathers stated that they used digital technology (specifically mobiles phones) in problematic ways.

This includes parents’ inability to resist checking their devices regularly or simply using their devices too much.

It’s also been observed that these distractions lead to a change in external or internal behaviour of children, such as ‘whining’, ‘sulking a lot’, ‘temper tantrums’ or ‘unable to sit still’.

What does technoference mean for your family?

Technoference is not a term designed to make parents, carers or guardians feel guilty.

It is in fact, a term designed to create awareness regarding technological interruptions and how they are negatively impacting parent-child communication or family routines such as meal or play times.

As parents, carers or guardians we need to be aware of the impact we have on our children and our relationship with them when devices are present.

This is because children are not oblivious to our actions and do report discomfort with their parents’ ‘absent presence’ and tell of their expectations — for parents to be present and modelling good digital technology habits — not being met.

Implementing some strategies to help minimise, if not avoid technoference will go a long way to reduce the impact of it on family relationships and behaviour.

Strategies include:

  • being mindful of your phone and technology use
  • developing an awareness of being present’ and in the moment with your children rather than having your mind elsewhere
  • asking yourself, “Can this wait until later?” before you engage with content on your phone
  • ensuring adults in the family are consistent in their approach to  minimising technoference, and most of all
  • not feeling guilty — because it is about awareness, not guilt.

You may even consider downloading the Family Insights app to help you and your family monitor their device usage  — ultimately creating a helping hand in minimising technoference.

For more information visit:

Institute For Family Studies — Technoference in Parenting: Is Your Mobile Device Distracting You From Your Child?

Wiley Online Library — Technoference: Parent Distraction With Technology and Associations With Child Behaviour Problems

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