Research Database

Tuning into the real effect of smartphone use on parenting: a multiverse analysis

Type of Publication: Journal article

Lead Organisation: Griffith University

Year Published: 2020

Lead Researcher: Kathryn L. Modecki

Article for The Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, co-authored by NCSEHE Adjunct Fellow Dr Lynette Vernon (Edith Cowan University).

Kathryn L. Modecki (Griffith University), Samantha Low‐Choy (Griffith University), Bep N. Uink (Murdoch University), Lynette Vernon (NCSEHE and Edith Cowan University), Helen Correia (Murdoch University) and Kylie Andrews (ABC)


Concerns have been raised regarding the potential negative impacts of parents’ smartphone use on the parent–child relationship. A scoping literature review indicated inconsistent effects, arguably attributable to different conceptualizations of parent phone use and conflation of phone use with technological interference.

Based on a sample of n = 3, 659 parents collected in partnership with a national public broadcaster, we conducted a multiverse analysis. We explored 84 different analytic choices to address whether associations were weak versus robust, and provide clearer direction for measurement, theory, and practice. Effects were assessed in relation to p values, effect sizes, and AIC; we further conducted a meta‐analytic sensitivity check.

Direct associations between smartphone use and parenting were relatively weak and mixed. Instead, the relation between use and parenting depended on level of technological interference. This pattern was particularly robust for family displacement. At low levels of displacing time with family using technology, more smartphone use was associated with better (not worse) parenting.

Our results indicate fragility in findings of risks for parental smartphone use on parenting; there were few concerns in this regard. Rather, at low levels of technological interference, more phone use was associated with higher parenting quality. Scholars should avoid generalized narratives of family risk and seek to uncover real effects.

Continue reading the full article in The Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology.

Posted 7 July 2020