This qualitative research study explores the implications of parental and child smartphone use on parent-child and family relationships. It also explores the role of smartphones in children’s contact with distant family members and the implications of smartphones for children’s learning, health and entertainment. In exploring all these, this thesis aims to contribute to the literature on digital device use and its various implications for immigrant ethnic minority children and families. The theoretical framework of this study draws on different strands of literature at the intersection of parent-child relationship and media. By focusing on this intersection, the study explores how the experiences and perceptions of parent-child and family relationships are influenced by smartphone use.
The study data are based on semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 14 families, 19 interviews with children and 15 interviews with parents. The study concluded that with the wide integration of smartphones into family life, there are interferences with the everyday experiences of parent-child and family time. It also concluded that immersion into and/or distraction by smartphones weakens the quality of parent-child communication, parent-child relationship and parenting. The study further concluded that smartphones play a positive role in children’s connection with their extended family members in Turkey, which was valued both by the children and their parents. In terms of the role of smartphones for children’s entertainment, for all of the interviewed children smartphones were found to be playing a significant role in this respect. As for smartphones’ role in children’s learning, most of the interviewed children seemed to value smartphones as a tool that helps them with their learning and feeding their interests. Children and parents associated positive feelings with children's smartphone use for learning whilst describing their non-educational smartphone use as a “waste of time” or “useless”. With respect to the impact of smartphone use on children's health, both parents and children reported concerns in this respect.
The findings of this study highlight that the way smartphones are used can either lead them to be perceived as facilitating and connecting devices that lead to improved connection and satisfaction whilst meeting various needs or separating devices that fracture/interfere with parent-child and family relationships, which can in turn be a source of conflict and dissatisfaction. This thesis is a first step in illustrating the implications of smartphone use on parent-child and family relationships in the Turkish-speaking community in London. Further diverse research on this subject on immigrant ethnic minority communities will help to gain a broader understanding of the implications of digital device use on parent-child and family relationships within immigrant ethnic minority communities.