How do Quebec preschooler’s screen media habits contribute to positive and negative development outcomes? A comprehensive approach to identify child, family, and community risk and protective factors

Principal investigator


Mathieu Bégin, Félix Berrigan, Caroline Bouchard, Jonathan Chevrier, Gabrielle Garon-Carrier, Angélique Laurent

Project status:


October 2023 - September 2026


The use of screens by preschoolers has been linked to several adverse developmental and health outcomes including increased risk of poor cardiometabolic health and delays in the development of motor, language, executive function, and emotional regulation skills. A limitation of previous work on this topic is the overwhelming focus on child screen time. A focus on the duration of screen use can obscure how child interactions with screens contribute to positive and negative outcomes. Positive outcomes may arise when children are exposed to high quality educational content, parental co-viewing is frequent, and the nature of use is interactive such is the case with video chat. It is therefore important to increase our understanding of how profiles of screen use, that differ in duration, content, context, and nature of use, as well as type of screen, contribute to positive and negative child outcomes. In addition to exhibiting different profiles of screen use, some children may be at risk of developing problematic media use, defined by an excessive preoccupation with screens. Problematic media use behavior appears to make its own contribution to negative outcomes in older children and adolescents. Last, little research has simultaneously examined how child-, parent-, family-, and community-level risk and protective factors influence child screen use and associated outcomes. The overarching objective of the proposed research program is to increase our understanding of how preschooler screen use contributes to positive and negative outcomes. Objective 1 is to describe profiles of preschooler screen use in terms of the characteristics of their screen usage (ex. duration, context). We will then examine how profiles contribute to positive (ex., empathy) and negative (ex., reduced physical activity) outcomes. Objective 2 is to examine how problematic media use behaviors (ex., excessive preoccupation with screens) at age 3 contribute to child outcomes by age 4. Finally, Objective 3 is to identify how child, parent, family, and community risk and protective factors amplify/buffer associations between screen use profiles, problematic media us, and their consequences. Our objectives will be met by recruiting 250 socioeconomically disadvantaged and 250 non-disadvantaged Quebec urban families. Parents of children will complete measures at baseline (age 3) and at follow-up with the same children at age 4. Our project directly addresses two specific needs under Axis 2. First, we examine the extent to which screen use profiles based on the duration, content, context, nature of use, and screen type, contribute to positive and negative consequences in children (Need 2). Second, our research will identify individual, parent, family, and community risk and protective factors associated with problematic media use and the extent to which these buffer/exacerbate the consequences of screen use by children (Need 1). We will also be able to address both of the programs’ bilateral needs by considering social health inequality factors experienced by preschoolers at the individual and social levels in our study design.

Funding Organization:

Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et Culture (FRQSC)
Axis 1:
Facilitate the development of adaptive capacities in children who are at risk due to personal or environmental characteristics.