cancel
Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Is distracted parenting a new parenting style?

sue_frantz
Expert
Expert
0 0 1,333

At the end of each term, I ask my Intro Psych students for their top ten list of important concepts they learned in the course. Last fall, interestingly, none of my students put parenting styles in their top ten lists. This term, a quarter of my students did. The only difference between those classes is that this term I asked my students to read an Atlantic article on distracted parenting (Christakis, 2018).

In our coverage of development I asked students, after they had read the article, whether they thought this is a new “parenting style” or if it fits one of the existing four: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, or neglectful. (Most students called it neglectful, but many weren’t quite ready to go all the way there and called it a “new branch” or a “type” of neglectful parenting.)

The article makes for an excellent discussion starter for small groups after you’ve covered parenting styles in class. The discussion of the impact distracted parenting has on children will be meaningful to students since you would have just covered child development.

Later when you cover operant conditioning – if you haven’t already done so – you can refer back to this section of the article.

Young children will do a lot to get a distracted adult’s attention, and if we don’t change our behavior, they will attempt to do it for us; we can expect to see a lot more tantrums as today’s toddlers age into school. But eventually, children may give up (Christakis, 2018)

If the adult drops the phone and attends to the child’s tantrum, the child’s tantrum behavior has been positively reinforced by getting attention, and the adult’s dropping-the-phone behavior has been negatively reinforced by stopping the tantrum. If the adult’s phone is more attention-grabbing than the child’s tantrum, then the adult will ignore the child. The result? Extinction. The child will no longer throw tantrums – or, perhaps, any other behavior that is a plea for adult attention.

The author of the article cites two research studies. If you’d like to challenge your students’ research skills, ask them to find those studies. The study that took place in Philadelphia is a pretty easy find because the article’s author gives us the names of the researchers. The Boston research article is a little more challenging because we don’t have clues to the citation. I don’t want to give the reference here because it would make it too easy for your Googling students to find. I can give you a hint, however: it was published in 2014 in a highly-respected peer-reviewed journal. And, if you email me (sfrantz@highline.edu), I would be happy to send you either or both references – as long as I don’t think you’re a student.

If you’d like to extend this activity, ask students to assess how well the article’s author did at describing those studies. Did the author hit the important high points? Was there other information in the research articles that would be important for a reader of The Atlantic to know?

Reference

Christakis, E. (2018). The dangers of distracted parenting. Retrieved August 29, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/07/the-dangers-of-distracted-parenting/561752/

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.