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4 March 2016

Glued to the Screen - Which Parent and Child Characteristics Matter?

Keywords: computer, media, parents, tablet, technology, North America, iPad, kids, mobile, mobile phone, survey, television,

A study in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology investigates which parental and child factors (such as age, media use, and parents' views) relate to young children’s time spend with media. It turns out that parents' own screen time, their view on the impact of media technology, and the child’s age are strong predictors of how much time children spend with TV, computers, smartphones, and tablets. 

Take aways

  • The time young children spend using TV, computer, smartphone, and tablet differs according to:
    • the child’s age;
    • parents' own screen time and;
    • parents' view on the impact of media technology.
  • Policymakers should be aware that of the important role of parents and caregivers in children’s media use when developing policies to reduce children’s screen time at home.

Study information

  • The question?

    Which parent and child factors (such as age, media use, and parents’ views) are associated with children’s use of TV, computer, smartphone, and tablet?

  • Who?

    2,326 parents (mean age: 35 years old; 42% were fathers) with a least one child aged 8 and younger (mean age: 4 years old; 50% were boys)

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    Parents were recruited through an online panel managed by a large company in the United States. Participants had to be a parent of a child aged 8 years or younger to participate in the study. Parents answered questions about the time they spent using media devices and attitudes toward these devices.

Facts and findings

  • Older children spent more time with screen media than younger children. 
  • Parents' time spend using media devices related strongly to their child’s screen time. In other words, it appears that children copy the screen time of their parents. 
  • Children aged 2 and younger whose parents were high TV and computer users used twice to five times more media themselves than toddlers whose parents were medium to low users.
  • Children of parents who believe media technology has a positive impact on their child spent more time with that specific technology. 
  • Almost all families (99%) owned at least one TV, followed by computers (86%) and smartphones (69%). Only 40% of the families owned a tablet. 
  • Of all media devices, parents spent the most time watching TV (2.5 hours per day) and using the computer (2 hours per day). If they owned a smartphone or tablet, they spent on average an hour per day on their smartphone and 45 minutes on their tablet.
  • Children’s screen time was the highest for TV viewing (2 hours) and compared to their parents they spent considerably less time with computers (25 minutes), smartphones (15 minutes) and tablets (29 minutes). 
  • Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (parent and child characteristics) and effect (screen time). The results only show that parent and child characteristics are associated with screen time on media devices.