A Naturalistic Study of Child and Family Screen Media and Mobile Device Use
Parental mediation of screen media (e.g., television, video games) is associated with better outcomes for children. Although much research has examined parental mediation of television (TV), there is a dearth of research examining communication about mobile media (e.g., Smartphones, tablets) in the digital age. This study seeks to identify themes of family communication around media and mobile devices using naturalistic observational methodology. The sample consisted of 21 toddlers (ages 12–24-months old), 31 preschool-age children (3–5 years old), and 23 school-age (10–13 years old) children and their families. Children wore Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) audio recording devices, which recorded vocalizations and other sounds proximal to the child wearing the device in the home environment, as well as audible screen media use. ATLAS.ti was used to transcribe dialogue from the audio recordings that pertained to screen media. Experts from the fields of communication, clinical child psychology, and developmental-behavioral pediatrics independently analyzed the transcripts to identify common themes. Five main themes emerged. First, parental mediation of screen media was primarily restrictive, reactive, and focused on technology functionality. Second, active mediation was child-driven. Third, siblings played a more dominant role in mediation than parents. Fourth, parents and children negotiated screen time limits. Finally, parallel family media use was common. Multiple family members engaged with their own mobile devices while simultaneously being exposed to background screen media (i.e., media multitasking). Assessing media use in the naturalistic home environment elucidated current patterns of family media use and communication about media in the digital age.
KeywordsMedia Mobile devices Parental mediation Media multitasking Naturalistic Parenting
S.D.: designed and executed the study, assisted with data analyses, and wrote the paper. J.R.: assisted with the data analyses and contributed to writing the Results and Discussion. K.H.: assisted with the data analyses and contributed to writing the Results and Discussion. H.R.: assisted with data analyses and contributed to writing the Introduction. J.L.: assisted with the design, analysis, and writing of the paper. A.M.: designed and collaborated with the execution of the study and writing of the paper.
All phases of this study were supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant number R03HD083656 and The Momentum Center and the MCubed program at the University of Michigan. Additionally, Dr. Domoff was supported by a National Research Service Award from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD; grant number F32HD085684).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
S.D., K.H., H.R., J.L. & A.M. declare that they have no conflict of interest. Dr. Radesky is paid to write for PBS Parents.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Michigan Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from participants in the study (see Methods section for complete parent consent and participant assent details).
- Austin, E. W. & Kistler, M. (2016). Family mediation of children's media/internet use. In C. H. Berger, M. E.Roloff, S. R. Wilson, J. P. Dillard, J. Caughlin, D. Solomon (Eds.), The international encyclopedia ofinterpersonal communication (pp. 1-10). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
- Christakis, D. A., Gilkerson, J., Richards, J. A., Zimmerman, F. J., Garrison, M. M., Xu, D., & Yapanel, U. (2009). Audible television and decreased adult words, infant vocalizations, and conversational turns: a population-based study. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 163, 554–558. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Collier, K. M., Coyne, S. M., Rasmussen, E. E., Hawkins, A. J., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Erickson, S. E., & Memmott-Elison, M. K. (2016). Does parental mediation of media influence child outcomes? A meta-analysis on media time, aggression, substance use, and sexual behavior. Developmental Psychology, 52, 798–812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery grounded theory: strategies for qualitative inquiry. Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transcation.Google Scholar
- Hardy, L. L., Baur, L. A., Garnett, S. P., Crawford, D., Campbell, K., Shrewsbury, V. A., & Salmon, J. (2006). Family and home correlates of television viewing in 12–13 year old adolescents: The Nepean study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 3, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Katz, V. S. (2014). Kids in the middle: How children of immigrants negotiate community interactions for their families. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Krendl, K. A., Troiano, C., Dawson, K., & Clark, G. (1993). O.K. Where’s the remote? Children, families and remote control devices. In J. Walker & R. Belkdmy, Jr. (Eds.), The remote control device in the new age of television (pp. 137–1541). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Lauricella, A. R., Cingel, D. P., Beaudoin-Ryan, L., Robb, M. B., Saphir, M., & Wartella, E. A. (2016). The Common Sense census: Plugged-in parents of tweens and teens. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.Google Scholar
- Nevski, E., & Siibak, A. (2016). Mediation practices of parents and older siblings in guiding toddlers’ touchscreen technology use: An ethnographic case study. Media Education Studies & Research, 7, 320–340.Google Scholar
- Nikken, P., & de Haan, J. (2015). Guiding young children’s internet use at home: Problems that parents experience in their parental mediation and the need for parenting support. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 9, article 3 https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2015-1-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Perrin, J. M. (2005). Qualitative research and ambulatory pediatrics. Academic Pediatrics 5, 129.Google Scholar
- Rasmussen, E. E., Shafer, A., Colwell, M. J., White, S., Punyanunt-Carter, N., Densley, R. L., & Wright, H. (2016). Relation between active mediation, exposure to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and US preschoolers’ social and emotional development. Journal of Children and Media, 10, 443–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rideout, V. (2013). Zero to eight: Children’s media use in America 2013. Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-inamerica-2013. Accessed 1 January 2017.
- Rideout, V. (2015). The common sense census: Media use by tweens and teens. Common Sense Media. http://www.commonsensemedia.org. Accessed 1 January 2017.
- Roberts, D.F., Foehr, U.G., Rideout, V.G., & Brodie, M. (1999). Kids & media @ the new millennium. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation.Google Scholar
- Rogow, F. (2015). Media literacy in early childhood education: inquiry-based technology integration. In C. Donohue (Ed.), Technology and digital media in the early years: Tools for teaching and learning (pp. 91–103). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children and New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Turkle, S. (2015). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
- Waters, N., Domoff, S. E., & Tang, S. (2016). Parenting of preschool children’s media use in the home. In P. Davis-Kean & S. Tang (Eds), Socializing Children through Language, Chapter 5 (pp. 111–146). Cambridge, MA: Elsevier, Inc.Google Scholar