Letting your phone get between you and your child

Screen time's effect on young children is still largely not understood - but what is clear is distracted parents on their devices can make an impact.
6:15 | 05/03/19

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Transcript for Letting your phone get between you and your child
Reporter: Parents post videos, wondering what is going on with their babies and screens. Baby after baby seems completely transfixed. You might even ask, would kids rather be looking at the screen than looking at their parents or their caregivers? We don't know. The screens are light. They're attractive. They're meant to be digital candy. Reporter: Kathy is director of temple university's infant language lab. Next to her, Tracy Dennis, professor of psychology at hunter college and both are also they decided to create an experiment which these researchers are helping us replicate. A mom comes into a laboratory, she's asked to scroll and type and focus on her screen just for two minutes. The videotape showing something maybe adults don't see when we're home alone. This is not about parent guilting, because parents feel so torn. Reporter: This is 2 and a half year old Jenson. It takes just 15 seconds for Jenson to start his campaign to get mom Melissa to look up from that screen. We have some things to do, mommy. Reporter: She has been ask the by researchers to do something very difficult for her. Keep looking down. Remember, just two minutes. Come on, mommy. Reporter: He repeats the plea seven times. We have things to do, mommy. You got to listen to me, mommy. Listen to me, mom. So let's not deceive ourselves into believing that children don't notice. They see it as an intruder, as an interloper. They see that it takes their parent away from them. Reporter: When it was over. Come here. Reporter: Jenson's mom said it was a revelation. I was actually really surprised at his reaction. Cell phones, I think, are qualitatively different than other forms of distraction because they're with us all the time. They're ubiquitous. They have been engineered to grab our attention. Reporter: As we set out to learn more about why so many of us are on our phones so much of the time, it led us to los ? Hi. Behind a garage door. An artificial intelligence company called boundless mind, Matt Mayberry, and Dalton Colmes, Dalton says even though we toss around that word addiction he thinks of it as mostly a series of compulsive habits. On a biological level, it's a thousand times easier to make a habit than break a habit. Reporter: He thinks of it as an arms race for our habits and attention. There are only a few things on Earth that are finite. Attention is finite. And it's basically the only finite thing left. The war over human attention is it's going to continue to intensify. Reporter: He knows this, because his company creates this kind of technology too. But he says their mission is to use it to build habits that help people live healthier lives, which is why they agreed to show us some of the techniques they say are designed to keep us watching more. Number one. We're besieged with those buzzes, notifications and pings. And if we get on our apps, is there a reason the pictures, the videos, the posts never seem to stop? We never get the stopping cue, the signal that I've been on Twitter long enough. Reporter: By design. It's designed. Pinterest and Twitter never Reporter: Like a puppy? Like a million? Some of the ads have tricks too. Some will design an ad that looks like a fly or piece of hair. You swipe and you are interacting with the app and earned the advertiser money. Reporter: Every second we are on a social media site we're offering an open stream of information about our personal behavior, our preferences, personalities. People don't realize how much they give away. Reporter: They can vacuum everything we do, including finger moves. You pause a little too long and you tell your phone what you want. My Instagram feed has a bunch of Turkish chefs, chefs in Turkey. At some point I watched a video of one Turkish chef. But now in my feed, when I see them and my thumb runs on the screen and I pause, I say why are there so many Turkish chefs. What they're hearing is show more Turkish chefs. That's not what I want to see Reporter: But remember, most of us live in a house with a lot of screens. Helloo. Reporter: The American academy of pediatrics recommends that kids under the age O 2 should avoid screens entirely with the exception of a few minutes of face time with I love you. Reporter: And there are studies showing that children seem more engaged with a story if a parent is reading from an ordinary book than if they're reading from a screen. I do not like that, Sam I am. Reporter: Eyes that can keep looking up at each other. Say your sister. Reporter: In three dimensions. Count my fingers. One, two, three, four. I really don't want to be guilt tripping parents with the study or implications, but die I do want the icing on the cake. It is where children learn the most about the world and them selves. I love you. I love you. You can watch "Screen time", Diane sawyer reporting tomorrow night at 8:00, 7:00 central right here on ABC and discover what information you're giving away every time you use your apps and social media.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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