Edited by Anja R. Lahikainen, Tiina Mälkiä and Katja Repo
Chapter 11: The influence of parental smartphone use, eye contact and ‘bystander ignorance’ on child development
New digital media devices are changing interaction practices rapidly, and this also applies to families. This chapter considers the mechanisms that are essential for understanding and investigating the meaning of parental smartphone use for developing children. The authors introduce the concept of ‘bystander ignorance’, which illustrates the role of smartphone use from the point of view of a bystanding person. Compared to the use of other objects in the home environment, parental smartphone use is exceptional in two major ways: (1) it catches the gaze and draws the caregiver away from the ongoing interaction with the child, and (2) it conveys exceptionally few signs of the activity that the caregiver is engaged in. Based on previous research on the development of social and emotional skills, the authors argue that parental smartphone use resulting in children’s bystander ignorance may have some effects on child development, and there is an urgent need for further research on the matter.
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