Smartphones and apps can be GOOD for family life because they help parents and children keep in touch, say scientists

Families should embrace the use of digital media and not shun it, according to new research.

Scientists have found that instead of replacing valuable quality time, digital media is enhancing family relationships and helping parents bond with their children. 

This is because technologies. such as smartphones and apps, helps children and parents better keep in touch.

The Parenting for a Digital Future report was published on Safer Internet Day 2018. 

Professor Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics (LSE) created the study based on more a survey of more than 2,000 parents of children aged between 0 and 17.

The report claims that modern families seem to be finding ways in which traditional activities and digital devices co-exist.

The authors write in the report: 'Contrary to what panicky headlines might have us believe, rather than displacing established ways of interacting, playing and communicating – digital media sit alongside them.

'Today, British families eat, shop and read together – and they watch TV, stream content, play video games, and use educational technology. 

'They stop by to see friends and family and they text, use messaging apps and make video calls.'

While internet use continues to increase, eight in ten parents said they eat meals and watch television or films with their children every week.

More than half said they still play and read with their children.

As well as being used to bring families closer together, the study also found that parents are using the internet as a learning tool to aid them.

For example, three in ten parents said they use the internet for health information related to their children, four in ten used it to download or stream content for their children and around half said they use it for educational purposes. 

Teenage children are also most likely to stay in contact with their parents via social media.  

Despite the increased use of tablets, phones, TVs and other devices, parents still expressed concern about the amount of 'screen time' their children were exposed to. 

The study found it was one of the leading causes of arguments at home.

These sorts of issues left parents feeling particularly isolated and unsure of where to turn for help and only nine per cent of the parents in the study said they would go to their own parents for advice.

However, for other domestic arguments, 28 per cent of parents felt they could get advice from their own parents about what to do. 

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet founder and CEO, says: 'Parents who grew up without the internet can be baffled by jargon and functionality; web-native millennial parents are often more wary than older parents and tend to put stricter rules in place.'

Professor Sonia Livingston believes limiting the amount of time spent on a device isn't necessarily the key to cyber-security. 

She said: 'Rather than worrying about the overall amount of 'screen time' children get, it might be better to support parents, many of whom are 'digital natives' themselves, in deciding whether, when and why particular digital activities help or harm their child, and what to do about it.'  

Will Gardner, director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, says: 'Safer Internet Day provides a good opportunity for parents and carers to explore the internet together with their child and have a conversation about using technology safely and positively.'