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Study Reveals the Impact of Parental Technoference on Adolescents' Mental Health and Behaviour

Published: 16 November 2023

A new review published by Public Health Wales and Bangor University in the journal BMC Public Health has shown how parental ‘technoference’ can influence adolescents’ mental health and behavioural outcomes.  

Technoference is a term used to describe the interference or disruption caused by technology in our daily lives, particularly in our interpersonal relationships. It refers to the negative impact that technology such as smartphones, computers, and other digital devices, can have on our face-to-face interactions, communication, and overall well-being. 

Technoference can be shown in various ways, such as when individuals prioritise their devices over spending quality time with others, constantly checking their phones during conversations, or getting distracted by notifications and social media while in the company of friends or family. This has previously been found to lead to decreased interpersonal connections, reduced attention and engagement in real-world interactions, and increased feelings of isolation and disconnection. 

The review showed that adolescents recognise that some level of parental technoference is a typical part of the digital environment we live in. However, studies consistently showed increased parental technoference is associated with increased likelihood of engaging in violent behaviours (e.g. cyber-bullying) and poorer mental health outcomes (e.g. depression and anxiety) in adolescents. Some studies showed that adolescents’ risks of experiencing poorer mental health were influenced by parental warmth and personal psychological factors (e.g. self-esteem, agreeableness, neuroticism).    

The study highlights the importance of contextual factors, such as frequency of device use and duration of device use, when exploring this area of research.   

Recognising that technology is a part of the new family environment, the need for proactive measures to lessen the negative impact of technoference in households, particularly concerning children and adolescents, is emphasised. It is essential for adults to be mindful of their screen use in the presence of children and young people, as their behaviour sets a crucial example for the next generation. 

Dr Catherine Sharp, one of the authors of the paper, emphasises, "Our study underscores the need for an informed approach to technology use within the family environment. It is vital for adults to be aware of the guidance offered by the UK Chief Medical Officers and to implement strategies that bring about healthier digital habits for the well-being of all family members." 

The full research paper titled "Parental technoference and adolescents’ mental health and violent behaviour: a scoping review" can be accessed by clicking here.