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Parents’ Degree and Style of Restrictive Mediation of Young Children’s Digital Gaming: Associations with Parental Attitudes and Perceived Child Adjustment

Abstract

Objectives

As young children increasingly grow up in a digital environment, parents are confronted with the question whether and how to regulate young children’s digital gaming effectively. The goal of this study was to examine correlates of parents’ degree of restrictive mediation and their (autonomy-supportive or controlling) style of doing so. Specifically, we tested associations of parents’ degree and style of restrictive mediation with parents’ attitudes about digital gaming, parental perceptions of children’s defiance and problematic gaming, and their interest in social play.

Methods

A sample of 762 parents of children between 3 and 9 years filled out questionnaires on their degree and style of restrictive mediation, their attitudes about gaming, and their perceptions of children’s oppositional defiance, problematic gaming, and interest in social play.

Results

We found that parents who hold more negative attitudes about digital gaming were more likely to use a controlling style when mediating their child’s gaming. Further, a higher degree of restrictive mediation generally related to more adaptive child outcomes (i.e., lower levels of perceived defiance and problematic gaming, higher levels of perceived interest in social play), whereas the opposite pattern was found for parents’ controlling style of mediation. Finally, these associations were not moderated by children’s age or gender, nor by parents’ gender or educational level.

Conclusions

Also in the context of children’s digital gaming, it seems important for parents to set clear rules. Yet, when doing so, it is equally important to refrain from using controlling strategies, as they seem to be counterproductive.

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Author Contributions

S.V.P. conceived of the study, analyzed and interpreted the data, and wrote the manuscript. E.D.F. coordinated the project and helped in analyzing the data and writing the manuscript. B.S. and A.V.R. helped with the interpretation of the data, and the writing of the manuscript. J.V.L. helped with the coordination and conception of the study, and with the writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Stijn Van Petegem.

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Van Petegem, S., de Ferrerre, E., Soenens, B. et al. Parents’ Degree and Style of Restrictive Mediation of Young Children’s Digital Gaming: Associations with Parental Attitudes and Perceived Child Adjustment. J Child Fam Stud 28, 1379–1391 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01368-x

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Keywords

  • Parental mediation
  • Digital gaming
  • Autonomy support
  • Control