Fitzpatrick C, Almeida ML, Harvey EM, Garon-Carrier G, Berrigan F, Asbridge LM. (2022). An examination of bedtime media and excessive screen time by Canadian preschoolers during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Pediatrics. 22(1), 212.
Risky media use in terms of accumulating too much time in front of screens and usage before bedtime in early childhood is linked to developmental delays, reduced sleep quality, and unhealthy media use in later childhood and adulthood. For this reason, we examine patterns of media use in pre-school children and the extent to which child and family characteristics contribute to media use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A cross-sectional study of digital media use by Canadian preschool-aged children (mean age = 3.45, N = 316) was conducted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic between April and August of 2020. Parents completed a questionnaire and 24-h recall diary in the context of an ongoing study of child digital media use. From these responses we estimated hours of average daily screen time, screen time in the past 24 h, average daily mobile device use, and media use before bedtime. Parents also answered questions about their child (i.e., age, sex, temperament), family characteristics (parental mediation style, parental screen time, education, income), and contextual features of the pandemic (ex., remote work, shared childcare). Daycare closures were directly assessed using a government website.
Our results indicate that 64% of preschoolers used more than 2 h of digital media hours/day on average during the pandemic. A majority (56%) of children were also exposed to media within the hour before bedtime. Logistic and multinomial regressions revealed that child age and temperament, restrictive parental mediation, as well as parent digital media use, education, satisfaction with the division of childcare, remote work, and number of siblings and family income were all correlates of risky digital media use by preschoolers.
Our results suggest widespread risky media use by preschoolers during the pandemic. Parenting practices that include using more restrictive mediation strategies may foster benefits in regulating young children’s screen time.