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The Role of Different Screen Media Devices, Child Dysregulation, and Parent Screen Media Use in Children’s Self-Regulation


Higher TV exposure has been repeatedly linked to poorer self-regulation among young children. Recent studies show that the use of mobile screen media devices is also negatively related to self-regulation in early childhood. Despite the proliferation of mobile devices in households with young children, it is unclear whether children’s use of smartphones and tablets predicts their self-regulation independently of TV use and parents’ screen media use or when also considering evocative effects of children’s dysregulation. This multimethod, cross-sectional study with a racially diverse sample (N = 72) in the western United States examines parents’ (86.3% mothers) leisure media use and preschool-aged children’s (M = 38.02 months, 55.6% girls, 47.2% racial-ethnic minority) mobile media use, TV use, and dysregulation as predictors of their behavioral battery-assessed self-regulation. As hypothesized, path models show that the amounts of children’s mobile media use, TV use, and dysregulation negatively predict their self-regulation, and mobile media use is a stronger predictor than TV use. We conclude with future directions to yield stronger inferences of screen media effects on child development that can inform interventions and screen time guidelines.

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