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Parents are spending considerable amounts of energy thinking about and mitigating the risks associated with their kids using mobile phones and the internet.

The impacts of too much screen time on children’s physical and mental health, development and education are common concerns among parents.

New research by the University of South Australia suggests that mums in particular are experiencing a “relentless and intense” mental load linked to their children’s digital use.

UniSA researcher Dr Fae Heaselgrave calls this additional burden “digital care work”, which involves mothers monitoring their children’s digital activity, familiarising themselves with social media platforms and coming up with strategies to manage their kids’ media use.

In a series of interviews with Adelaide mothers of children aged 9 to 16, Dr Heaselgrave found that digital care work intensifies modern mothering by requiring an additional investment of time and energy to monitor children’s digital media use.

Some mothers remarked that digital homework, which requires use of tablets or laptops rather than traditional pens, paper and textbooks, can make it difficult to set rules or guidelines around media use because children need to use a device to complete school-related work.

In a recent study, researchers have uncovered a significant correlation between a mother’s mental load and her children’s digital device usage. The study, published in the Journal of Child Development, suggests that the psychological well-being of mothers plays a crucial role in shaping their children’s digital habits.

The research explored the intricate interplay between a mother’s mental state and her children’s increasing engagement with digital devices. The study monitored children’s screen time and online activities while assessing their mothers’ stress levels, emotional balance, and overall mental health. Strikingly, the findings indicated that higher maternal stress and an overwhelming mental load were associated with increased digital device use among children.

The implications of this study shed light on the importance of creating a harmonious family environment to foster healthy digital habits in children. Addressing maternal well-being and stress management could be a potential avenue for reducing excessive screen time and its associated impacts on child development.

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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