How does the use of smartphones change for new mothers? : a pre- and postpartum, matched-controlled observational design (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree NameMaster of Health Sciences
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsMcCaleb, Miriamshow all
Today’s adults are likely to use smartphones, which are pervasive in their abundance and persuasive in their design. Using a smartphone while caring for infants is associated with suboptimal outcomes for the parent/child relationship, and therefore child development. There has been an absence of empirical information about the extent to which mothers’ smartphone use reflects an understanding of potential harm, and whether their smartphone perceptions, intentions and behaviours change at the transition to parenthood. To address this question, we used a pre- and post-partum, matched-controlled observational design, in which first time mothers (n=65) and their nominated “research buddies (RB)” (n=29) were surveyed and used a screen-time tracking app (Moment) for seven days. Data were gathered during the final trimester of pregnancy, and again at 6-8 weeks postpartum. Pregnant women and RB had mean phone use of 205 and 198 minutes/day (range: 37-562 mins/day, 61-660 minutes/day), respectively. Pregnant women and RB had mean daily phone pickups of 53 and 54 (range: 2-223 pickups/day, 5-142 pickups/day) respectively. After child birth, both groups saw increases in both measures, the new mothers’ time on device increase was statistically significant (p<0.001), as was the RB pickup increase (p=0.04). These measured increases are in contrast to a reduction in both groups’ scores on the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale, 10 question version (MPPUS-10), a self-report scale designed to assess problematic use or overuse of the smartphone. For the new mothers, the average matched MPPUS-10 score reduced by 4 points (95% CI: -7, -1) after the child’s birth, a difference that was statistically significant (p=0.008). This suggests that women’s perceptions of their smartphone differed from their objectively measured use. These findings, along with other results from the survey, reinforce calls by other researchers regarding the need for guidelines for new parents about limiting smartphone use in the presence of infants. This thesis includes this call for guidelines as part of a suite of recommendations to support new mothers in enjoying the benefits of smartphone use while minimising the potential for harm to the parent/infant relationship, and therefore to child development.