Fitzpatrick C, Binet M-A, Couture, M., Harvey E, Barr R, Garon-Carrier G. (2023). Preschooler screen time and temperamental anger/frustration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pediatrics Research, 94, 820-825.
In the context of increased media use and family distress during the pandemic, we examine whether preschooler screen time at age 3.5 contributes to later expressions of anger/frustration at 4.5, while also considering the inverse association. Data are from a cohort of 315 Canadian preschool-aged children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parent-reported measures included child h/day of screen time and child temperamental anger/frustration, both measured at 3.5 and 4.5 years of age. Indicators of family distress include use of childcare and child sleep, family income, parenting stress, and parent education, marital and employment status. We also consider child sex as a control variable. A crossed-lagged panel model revealed continuity in screen time between the ages of 3.5 and 4.5 (ß = 0.68) and temperamental anger/frustration from 3.5 to 4.5 (ß = 0.60). Child screen time at age 3.5 predicted increased proneness to anger/frustration at age 4.5 (ß = 0.14). Anger/frustration at age 3.5 did not predict screen time at age 4.5. Our results suggest that preschooler screen time during the pandemic may have undermined the ability to regulate negative emotions, a key component of social and academic competence. Supporting parents in implementing healthy media habits post pandemic may benefit young children’s development.