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Study: Parents’ phone use could harm child’s emotional intelligence

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A new study from UC Santa Barbara suggests parents' phone use in front of their child could have a harmful effect on the child's emotional intelligence.

Professor Robin Nabi, Professor of Communication at UC Santa Barbara, says she wanted an answer to the question, "how does media-use influence emotional intelligence?"

In the study, emotional intelligence is defined as a set of life skills that develop through the practice of social interactions. More specifically, emotional intelligence is comprised of four key skills; emotional perception, emotional integration, emotional understanding, and emotional management.

400 parents of children between the ages of 5 and 12 participated in the study. Parents completed a survey that asked questions about their child's personality traits, emotional intelligence, and media and non-media activities.

The study found that children developed lower emotional intelligence when their parents used their mobile devices more frequently in front of them. However, there is no evidence to suggest a child's screen-use has a negative effect on the development of their own emotional intelligence.

"That's not to say that there can't be negative effects, but there can be positive effects as well," said Nabi. "Ultimately, media is a tool and how we use it is what influences whether it has a positive or negative effect."

To lessen the harmful effects of frequent screen-use in front of children, Nabi says parents should, "minimize multitasking between working and parenting," by setting clear boundaries around work.

The study highlighted a distinction between parents using a phone and using a computer. Children of parents who reported more phone-use in the presence of their children were assessed as having lower emotional intelligence while parental computer-use did not relate to any change in emotional intelligence development. Nabi explains that could be because phones are more accessible and are used for a wide variety of activities.

The study reaffirmed that reading has a positive effect on the development of a child's emotional intelligence.

Article Topic Follows: News
childhood development
emotional intelligence
Professor Robin Nabi
Santa Barbara
survey results
UC Santa Barbara

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