How often do you have the intention of starting a new task or having a conversation with your spouse or child only to be distracted by a notification on your phone or computer? Unfortunately, we all know this has become the norm in the digital age that we live in. Our devices hold a tremendous amount of information and it is becoming increasingly difficult to live free from distraction. The term Technoference has gained wide popularity as a phrase that explains the interference of technology in our everyday lives and the effect it has on our work productivity, romantic relationships, parenting, and overall quality of life.
Current research highlights that frequent technology interference impedes communication and time with romantic partners and children—even if unintended or for brief moments—individuals may not realize that they may be sending embedded messages about what they value most, potentially leading to conflict and negative outcomes in personal life and overall relationship satisfaction.
Technoference is often a topic of concern that is discussed in my office. As part of my initial intake, I ask questions related to screen time and assess for feelings of dissatisfaction in relationships as a result of Technoference. This is often a concern for parents of the adolescent clients that I work with. What I have found though is that assessing parental screen time is just as imperative as assessing child screen time. In my experience, it is crucial for parents to model digital technology habits and hold themselves to the same standards that they expect of their children.
What is reported most often to me by parents, children, and couples alike is their frustration with their experience of the lack of attention or presence, when there loved one is on their phone, iPad, or computer. The term “absent presence” has been coined in research as the act of being physically present, but having one’s mind elsewhere based on communication or content from mobile phones.
Absent presence is associated with diminished quality and quantity of parent-child and couple interactions. We want to feel acknowledged in our relationships and cultivate depth in interaction and communication, and thus, it is important to maintain structured boundaries around the use of technology.
1. Assess Your Technology use
It is important to critically examine your use of technology. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How often are you on your device during family time?
- Is all of that use necessary?
- Why are you getting on the device?
- How do you think your partner or family feels when they see you get on your device or hear its notifications during family time?
- What efforts have you tried to manage use of device?
2. Steps towards Limiting Technoference
- Evaluate your screen time each week using the embedded screen time feature
- Turn off notifications
- Designate technology free areas in your home
- Put technology away during meal times and family activities
- Set a timer and only allot specified time for technology use when with partner/family
- I often recommend a two-week digital detox to clients struggling with extensive Technoference. In my experience, this resets behavioral patterns and clients report positive mood, decreased anxiety and increased productivity.
McDaniel, B. T., & Radesky, J. S. (2018). Technoference: Parent Distraction With Technology and Associations With Child Behavior Problems. Child development, 89(1), 100–109. doi:10.1111/cdev.12822
McDaniel, B. T., & Coyne, S. M. (2016). “Technoference”: The interference of technology in couple relationships and implications for women’s personal and relational well-being. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5(1), 85-98.