Question: What impact does parents’ use of digital media have on children? Why might parents not be aware of this impact? 


Answer: It seems that everyone these days is busy, frequently using media for work, relaxation, coordinating family/social activities and more. Sometimes parents can be so focused on managing their child’s digital media use, that they forget about how their own media use contributes to family wellbeing.  

Many parents think that technology is making parenting harder than it was 20 years ago, mostly because there are so many forms of media that are hard to keep up with. At the same time, over half of parents surveyed said they felt that they spent too much time on their smartphones, 36% said they spent too much time on social media, and 11% said they spent too much time on video games – so feeling like they are wasting time online might be on their radar. In a recent survey of parents of infants, 85% said they were contemplating changing their phone use patterns, meaning they are thinking about changing this behavior but have not yet made the change. Only 15% had little to no desire to change their behavior or did not feel that there was a problem.  

Taken together, this means that parents are going to vary in how aware or concerned they are about their media and phone use habits. But, there are good reasons to consider making some changes in how parents use digital media and/or how they talk about it with their children. 

Research has shown that:  

  • Kids are likely to pick up on parents’ problematic media use behaviors, including distraction from responsibilities and family time, emotional difficulties and irresponsible posting behaviors. This could influence the kid’s own developing relationship with digital media. 
  • Teens benefit from parents’ transparency with their own struggles with managing their social media use.  
  • Youth may be more receptive to household technology rules that are followed by parents. 
  • Social media use can have positive and negative effects on family connectedness – but it depends on how you use it and talk about it. 

Resources for Parents 

  • recommends creating a Family Media Plan to facilitate discussion around safe and practical media use that works for a family’s specific needs. 
  • The Family Dinner Project has several guides for facilitating family conversations about technology use during meal times. These can help parents & kids communicate and connect around technology use: 
  • Common Sense Media - has content around co-viewing, and tips for being a role model
    • Consider subscribing to their newsletter for content like “Family Tech Tips,” from their recent one: “Be a role model: Start noticing and acknowledging moments when you're distracted by your own device and model the behavior you'd like to see in your kids.” 
  • is an Australian parenting website that has advice on how parents can model healthy technology use around their kids.  



Age: 0-17, early childhood, middle childhood, early adolescence, middle adolescence, late adolescence 

Topics: Parent social media use, technoference, healthy parenting 

Role: Parent 

Last Updated



American Academy of Pediatrics