Texting While Parenting

Child development research suggests that using phones while caring for children can be problematic, but limited prior work in this space makes defining appropriate use challenging. We conducted the first exploration of whether adults feel pressure to limit phone use in this context and whether they choose to do so. Through mixed methods, we collected data from 466 adult caregivers at playgrounds. We found that phone use was a small part of playground time, yet a notable source of guilt. Adults engaged in systematic and specific phone-use and phone-non-use behaviors in order to prioritize their children above themselves. Our results indicate that caregiver values and self-control together predict behavior and can be used to model phone use in this context. Users’ mixed success with engaging in intentional periods of non-use suggests that a design agenda which prioritizes cycles of engagement, disengagement, and re-engagement may be of value to this group. This work was published at CHI 2015.

Parent using mobile phone at playground


Alexis Hiniker
Kiley Sobel
Hyewon Suh
Yi-Chen Sung
Charlotte Lee
Julie Kientz


  • Hiniker, A., Sobel, K., Suh, H., Sung, Y. C., Lee, C. P., & Kientz, J. A. (2015, April). Texting while parenting: How adults use mobile phones while caring for children at the playground. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 727-736). ACM.