A new study from the University of Michigan has found that even preschool-aged children are caught up in the electronic device rage. Parents and kids three to five- years-old are not communicating with one another because the young ones are using video games, mobile devices, and television so often.
The difference in this study is that instead of relying on self-reporting by parents who were tracking their children’s media time, the scientists tried something different.
The researchers used audio equipment to follow preschoolers as they interacted with their parents in 2010 and 2011. Forty-four families participated and were recorded for 10 hours a day to monitor the communications between parents and their kids.
Karen Graham, writing for Digital Journal, says the audio record picked up a signal when a device was being used. The team could differentiate the type of device and could transcribe any media-related talk within the homes. Difference in demographics was also noted as it related to media used and communications between parent and child.
The surprising results showed that kids with mothers who had graduate degrees had much less exposure to media than young ones with moms who had only high school diplomas or who had one year of university. Nicholas Waters, the lead author of the study, said that moms who were highly educated were more likely to discuss media use with their kids. The research also found that these mothers had their children watch more education programming on television.
“Importantly, children of mothers with less than a graduate degree were exposed to media without any dialogue related to the media content for the vast majority of the time,” said co-author Sarah Domoff. She claims that these parents practice “active mediation” of television and other types of media, they are mitigating the risks associated with media exposure.
The findings were presented on May 29 at the annual Association for Psychological Science conference in Chicago. The study did not cover the issue of the increased use of all media types by youngsters, particularly on smartphones, or their texting addictions.
India’s The Free Press Journal reports that Waters and Dormoff had another collaborator, Sandra Tang, a scientist in the Department of Psychology and Institute for Social Research. The researchers suggested that a future study may occur that would include father-child interactions.
Dr. Sarah Domoff completed her post-doctoral clinical psychology training at the Mary A. Rackham Institute at the University of Michigan and is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Michigan, but formerly garnered experience in treating kids with backgrounds that included maltreatment and violence exposure.
Domoff is interested in research concerning the effects of media on children’s mental health and health and the ways that parents can intervene to help reduce these effects.
Nicholas Waters received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan and is interested in using a risk and resilience framework “to identify risk and protective factors that can then be utilized to inform policy practices.”
Sandra Tang received a B.A. in Child Development and Community Health from Tufts University and her Ph.D. in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology from Boston College. Tang focuses on the role of the family as it affects children’s educational success.