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15 March 2018

‘Unboxing’ Toddlers’ YouTube Viewing: How Parents’ Attitudes Toward Digital Media Predict Online Screen Time

Keywords: education, interview, media, parents, Eastern Europe & Russia, Websites, entertainment-education, interactive media, internet, preschoolers, tablet, technology,

Still in their diapers, but already viewing online content; today's toddlers choose online viewing platforms such as YouTube as their primary source for screen viewing. A study in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace reveals that there are at least three parent-related factors that determine online screen time among toddlers.

Take aways

  • Toddlers’ online viewing has become deeply integrated into the daily child-rearing routine of parents. 
  • Toddlers spend more time viewing online videos, when their parents:
    1. view digital media as a preferable source for screen viewing; 
    2. like to co-view with their child;
    3. perceive digital media as a convenient and valuable part of their child-rearing practices.
  • For pediatricians and media education practitioners it is useful to know that the digital child-rearing practices of parents strongly affect online viewing behavior among toddlers. This may help them to provide parents with supportive tools.

Study information

  • The question?

    How is the amount of online viewing among toddlers associated with characteristics of the child, parents and the family, parental attitudes towards media effects, parental mediation styles, and parents’ childrearing routines?

  • Who?

    289 parents of toddlers aged 18-36 months (mean age: 26 months; 48% girls). Parents’ average age was 32 and 85% were mothers

  • Where?


  • How?

    In a face-to-face interview, the parents were asked questions about the following topics: children’s online viewing time and of their total screen viewing time on a typical day, characteristics of the children (age and gender), characteristics of the parents (level of education and employment), characteristics of the family (siblings, number of media devices in the household and TV set in bedroom), parents’ preferences and concerns regarding children’s media use, parents’ mediation styles and their use of screen media as part of their childrearing routines.

Facts and findings

  • Toddlers’ spent more time viewing online videos when their parents: 
    1. viewed digital media as a preferable source for screen viewing,
    2. liked to co-view child-oriented content,
    3. used digital media for the following child rearing practices: a) keeping the child occupied, b) regulating the child’s daily schedule, and c) putting the child to bed.
  • Toddlers’ viewing of online videos was not predicted by age and gender of the child, his/her parents level of education and employment, or the family composition. 
  • Critical note: The estimate of children’s online viewing is based on face-to-face interviews with parents. This might have resulted in an underestimation of the online viewing time of children because of the repeated warnings of negative outcomes that are associated with high media exposure. Therefore, the results should be interpreted with caution. 
  • Remarkable fact: Results show that initial online viewing already begins in the first year of life, even before the child can walk.