Observation Field Note Excerpts Illustrating Caregiver Absorption With Mobile Devices

Decreased responsiveness to child(1) Female caregiver pulls out her phone from her purse and looks at it. Girl [school age] is talking to her caregiver, caregiver is looking at the phone, nodding a little while the child talks but not looking back at her or responding with words. Caregiver doesn’t appear to be listening but says a few words in response every once in a while. Girl asks caregiver about her manicure. Keeps asking her questions but does not appear upset (cheerful facial expression, happy tone of voice) with the few words that caregiver says in response. Caregiver looks around the restaurant. Stares back at her phone. Child sways in her chair and keeps eating fries and asking caregiver questions. Caregiver looks up occasionally to grab a French fry or quickly say something to the girl and then continues to do something on her phone.
(2) Female caregiver is holding the baby in her lap and is staring at her cell phone. Both boys [preschool and school age] are sitting in their chairs staring around. They appear to be almost finished eating. Caregiver is finished. Caregiver looks up and asks the middle boy if he can please finish in a frustrated tone of voice. Oldest boy is wiggling around in his chair. She says “sit down” without looking up from her phone. Oldest boy is looking at his shoes, the ground, his chair, but not getting out of his chair. She says, “Just sit. Please listen,” and then looks at the middle boy and says, “Just 2 more minutes. Please eat.” Middle boy starts whining and picks up his juicebox. Caregiver looks up from her phone, and the boy complains that his straw has fallen inside the juicebox. Caregiver takes it from him and says that he pushed it in and he can’t have it anymore. Child seems unbothered. She asks him if he is finished eating, and he says he isn’t finished, then he gets up and wanders around the table. Caregiver gets up, holding the baby, and picks up his plate and throws it out.
Decreased conversation with child; child passive(3) Female caregiver brings food over and sits down across from girl, they distribute the food and as [school aged] girl starts eating caregiver brings out her smartphone. There is no conversation. Caregiver appears to be typing into phone, holding it about 10 inches away from her face, looking into it for long stretches during which she does not look up. She stops typing and is staring at the screen, touching it at points, holding it with her right hand while she leans her chin on her left hand, her facial expression flat. She has been looking at it for about 2 min without any change of gaze, while the girl eats and looks around the room. Caregiver then puts phone down on the table and takes a drink from her smoothie. She then looks at the girl for about 1–2 s and then down at her phone on the table. The girl keeps eating, then gets up to cross the room to get more ketchup. Caregiver is not watching her do this; she is looking down at the phone. The girl quickly returns and sits and eats, looking around the room while caregiver continues to hold the phone with her right hand and look at it, sipping her drink without moving her gaze. She eats some fries slowly and continues to look at the phone with a flat expression. Still no conversation. This continues through most of the meal. Now girl’s head appears to be looking right at caregiver, and caregiver looks up but not at the girl, scans the restaurant with a flat expression and then eats some fries and puts the phone down on the table.
Child escalation/ caregiver raising voice during absorption(4) Dad [was called Dad by one of the boys] sits down with 3 boys and brings out a smartphone and starts swiping. Boys are talking to each other, excited, eating, talking, seeming to goof around. The dad looks up at them intermittently when they exclaim something or raise their voices, but otherwise he looks at his phone, which he is holding in front of him. ...I can see that dad is scrolling through small text; looks like a web site, not e-mail. Again dad looks up at them when one of them exclaims something [inaudible] but then goes back to surfing web. At this point he puts the phone down from in front of his face, still holding it in hand, and points to youngest, instructing him on something. Then back to scrolling. ...Oldest boy starts singing “jingle bells, Batman smells,” and the others try to join in but don’t know the words. Dad not responding. They’re making up their own words to the song now. Dad calls the little one’s name and speaks in a mildly stern voice, and they stop singing. Little one laughs. Dad continues to hold phone up in front of face, looks over to boys, then back to phone. ...The boys start singing “jingle bells, Batman smells” again, and dad looks up and tells them to stop in a firm voice. Then he looks back to phone. ...[end of meal] Again in stern voice, seeming exasperated, dad says, “HURRY UP!” and the boys are being silly, licking each other’s cones, climbing on each other and on the divider between booths; dad keeps giving instructions in same tone of voice, says something about not getting this again.
(5) Girl [young school aged] comes back to the table, is scratching her head with the fork, looking at her parents [she called them Mom/Dad]. They are looking at their phones. She has a cookie now that her brother gave her. Dad reaches over the table and starts eating the daughter’s food. She frowns and says that it is her food. He responds saying, “You aren't eating it, and I bought it, so I’m going to eat it.” She shrugs it off and keeps eating her cookie. Dad is scolding boy about something. Both girl and boy look at each other and are smiling. Boy gets up to throw his trash away. He’s standing up. Mom is still looking only at her phone, dad is eating, and daughter is drinking from her soda cup. Girl is playing with her noodles with her finger. Dad yells at her to stop. He takes her food away from her and is cleaning up the table. Girl is talking, mostly to the boy. Mom is still looking at her phone. Dad talks to the children to scold them, then goes back to looking around the food court. Mom is still looking at her phone. Dad is looking at her phone with her now. Daughter takes her fork and starts stabbing a container on the table. Mom looks at her and scolds her. Dad keeps telling her to stop, but she continues with a big smile on her face. Mom finally looks up and scolds her. The girl continues what she is doing. The fork snaps, and both parents look up and tell her, “STOP.” She laughs, and the boy laughs. ...[later in meal] Mom is showing something to all of them on her phone. Boy is reaching his arm out, and the girl is hitting it, while the girl screams. Dad tells them to stop. Mom is still looking at her phone. Girl gets off of her chair and starts swinging the boy’s chair around. Dad tells her to get back in her chair in stern voice. Mom doesn’t look up from her phone.