Researchers found that in the study when parents spent a long time looking at their phones, their children noticed and tried to seek attention.
Researchers from Boston Medical Center went to 15 local fast food restaurants and observed the interactions between family members, noting in particular the reactions children had when mom or dad were busy with their smartphones.
Dr Jenny S Radesky, a fellow in developmental behavioural pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and lead author of the study said that researchers took detailed notes about the observations.
Parents in 40 of the 55 families observed were absorbed in their mobile devices, according to the study.
They seemed more distracted when they were typing and making swiping motions with the fingers than when making phone calls. And almost a third of the parents used their devices continuously throughout their meal.
Some children appeared unaffected and ate their meals in silence. Other children were more provocative, with one set of siblings singing 'Jingle bells, Batman smells' to get their father's attention, 'ABC News' reported.
The degree to which the device was used, however, did not necessarily directly relate to the way in which the child reacted, according to the study.
"The conclusion I wouldn't draw from the study, is that we need to completely remove these devices when we are with our children," Radesky said.
"But it does raise the issue that we need to create boundaries for these devices when we are with our children," she said.
The study will be published in the journal Pediatrics.
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