Are you one of those parents who calm their tantrum-throwing children with a digital device? Beware, it may hamper their ability to self-regulate their emotions later in adulthood, finds a study on Friday.

In recent years, parents often use tablets or smartphones to divert their child’s attention when upset.

A team of researchers in Hungary and Canada found that the approach known as parental digital emotion regulation leads to the inability of children to regulate their emotions later in life effectively.

“Here we show that if parents regularly offer a digital device to their child to calm them or to stop a tantrum, the child won’t learn to regulate their emotions,” said Veronika Konok, a researcher at Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary.

“This leads to more severe emotion-regulation problems, specifically, anger management problems, later in life,” she added.

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For the study, published in Frontiers in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the team included more than 300 parents of children aged between two- and five years old who were followed up for a year.

The findings showed that when parents used digital emotion regulation more often, children showed poorer anger and frustration management skills a year later.

“Tantrums cannot be cured by digital devices,” Konok pointed out. “Children have to learn how to manage their negative emotions for themselves. They need the help of their parents during this learning process, not the help of a digital device.”

At the same time, the researchers said parents should “not avoid situations that could be frustrating to the child”, but coach the children to “recognise their emotions, and teach them to handle them”.

The researchers also suggested “training and counseling methods for parents”.