Maternal Mobile Phone Use During Mother–Child Interactions Interferes With the Process of Establishing Joint Attention

Dafna Krapf-Bar, Michael Davidovitch, Yael Rozenblatt-Perkal, Noa Gueron-Sela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Parental mobile device use while parenting has been associated with reduced parental responsiveness and increased negative affect among children. However, it remains unclear whether it can interfere with the process of acquiring social communication skills. Thus, this study sought to experimentally examine whether maternal mobile phone use while interacting with the child has an immediate effect on the frequency of mothers’ and infants’ joint attention (JA) behaviors, the likelihood that these behaviors will lead to JA episodes, and the duration of established JA episodes. Participants were a community sample of 114 (Mage = 11.36 months; 50% male) Israeli typically developing infants, in which most mothers were highly educated and living in two-parent families. Mother–infant dyads completed a modified stillface paradigm and were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions during the still-face phase: (a) mobile phone disruptions, (b) social disruptions, and (c) undisrupted play. Mother–infant interactions were coded for frequency of JA behaviors and duration of JA episodes. In dyads assigned to the mobile phone disruptions condition, infants produced more JA initiations, mothers were less likely to contingently respond to infant initiations, JA behaviors were less likely to result in established JA, and JA episodes were shorter compared to dyads in the two control conditions and the baseline free play phase. Findings suggest that maternal mobile phone use during face-to-face interactions with the infant can disrupt the process of establishing JA in ongoing mother–child interactions. Possible implications from this line of work for family digital media use are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1639-1651
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Digital media
  • Joint attention
  • Mobile phone use
  • Parent–child interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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