GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Regularly handing your child your phone to distract them from a tantrum could impair their ability to regulate their emotions in the long run, a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan found.

The study by Michigan Medicine, which was published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, found that frequent use of a smartphone or tablet to soothe kids age 3 to 5 can lead to increased emotional dysregulation, like quick mood shifts or being more impulsive. The effect was more pronounced among boys, who may already have hyperactivity, impulsiveness and react more strongly when they are upset.

“Using mobile devices to settle down a young child may seem like a harmless, temporary tool to reduce stress in the household, but there may be long term consequences if it’s a regular go-to soothing strategy,” Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, who led the study, said in a statement.

She said parents may be inclined to use devices because it works quickly to change their child’s behavior in the moment, but it’s not sustainable.

“The habit of using devices to manage difficult behavior strengthens over time as children’s media demands strengthen as well. The more often devices are used, the less practice children — and their parents — get to use other coping strategies,” she said.

Radesky didn’t suggest that parents should never use screentime as a quick way to divert a tantrum, merely that it should it shouldn’t be the go-to option.

“We can still use devices when we need to…it just shouldn’t be the primary way you figure out how to calm your child down,” she said.

She offered some ideas of what to do instead. For example, if a child is having a hard time sitting still, parents can offer other sensory options, like a hug, an option to move around like jumping on a trampoline or something else to look at or engage with, like a book or music.

When a child is upset, a parent can model emotional control by identifying the feeling for the child and demonstrating that they can manage that emotion. They can also create a visual guide for their kids, assigning colors to feelings to help them understand the abstract concept.