Canada Research Chair in Digital Media Use by Children and Its Implications for Promoting Togetherness: An Ecosystemic Approach

Chair Holder : Caroline Fitzpatrick

The overarching objective of the proposed CRC is to shed light on child digital media habits and their contribution to wellbeing, academic success, and health. The proposed CRC will use an ecosystemic approach in which child development is understood as being embedded within interacting spheres of influence at the individual, family, and school levels. Specific objectives will examine: (1) the Developmental consequences of child digital media habits; (2) the Contribution of parental media use and family characteristics to child digital media use and their consequences; and (3) the Role of school factors in shaping child digital media habits and their consequences. Transactional links between these levels of influence will also be considered.

Aims will be met by applying sophisticated statistical analyses to four complimentary longitudinal data sets. The Nova Scotia Media Use Study is a detailed examination of media use in a sample of preschool-aged children and their families (N=328, 2020-2021) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD, 1998-2021) 1st (N=2120) and 2nd (N=4000, 2021-on-going) editions provide large representative birth cohort studies for comparison and replication. Last, the Quebec Adipose Lifestyle Investigation in Youth (N=633, 2008-2024) tracks sedentary behaviors, including digital media use, and their health outcomes in a sample of children at risk of obesity.

The proposed CRC will address five existing gaps in the scientific literature. First, it will move beyond a focus on screen time, to a more comprehensive examination of media usage which includes consideration of the content and context of use. Second, since they have been neglected in the scientific literature, the proposed research will consider the contribution of families and schools in shaping child digital media habits and their consequences. Third, this CRC will employ longitudinal research designs to overcome limitations of cross-sectional research. Fourth, the proposed CRC will investigate how usage of newer and evolving mobile devices are shaping child outcomes. Last, the impact of digital media use by school-aged children has received less attention than usage by preschoolers and adolescents. This CRC will expand prior research to this age group. The proposed CRC will therefore provide valuable new information on how to use digital media with children to promote positive and prevent negative outcomes.