Social learning in the digital age: Associations between technoference, mother-child attachment, and child social skills.
Technoference refers to incidents in which technology use interferes with interpersonal exchanges (e.g., conversations, playing). Although research on technoference is in its infancy, there is preliminary evidence that mothers believe technoference has a detrimental impact on the social-emotional functioning of their child. The current study investigated the degree to which technoference was associated with attachment between mothers and their elementary-aged children. A second aim was to determine if the relationship between technoference and children's social-emotional functioning may be moderated by mother-child attachment. Surveys were completed by a sample of 80 mothers and their elementary-aged children. This study is unique in asking elementary-aged children to report their perceptions of parental technoference and the impact it has on their relationship with their mother and their own social-emotional functioning. More frequent technoference was associated with less secure mother-child attachment as rated by children, but not as rated by mothers. That is, frequent technoference may not significantly influence a mother's attachment to their child, but it is associated with a child's attachment to their mother. More frequent technoference was associated with decreased ratings by mothers regarding their child's social-emotional functioning. Furthermore, maternal attachment moderated the relationship between technoference and child externalizing behaviors, such that a more secure attachment served as a protective factor against the negative impact of technoference on child externalizing behaviors. However, attachment did not moderate the relationship between technoference and most social skills assessed in our study. Implications from this study are discussed, including ways to increase awareness of technoference among school personnel, parents, and youth.