Parenting and Child Behaviour Barriers to Managing Screen Time With Young Children

Abstract

The impact of excessive screen use on child health and development is now a public health concern, and research efforts are focused on finding ways to moderate screen use. To date, the focus has mainly been on school-aged children and adolescents, and the early childhood context has been comparatively neglected. Moreover, relationships between factors likely to influence screen use by young children (e.g., child behaviour, parenting style and self-efficacy) remain largely unexplored. Our study aimed to test relationships between parenting style, parents’ self-efficacy, parental distress, child behaviour, and young children’s screen time. We used a cross-sectional study design. Parents (N = 106) of young children (aged 0–4 years) living in Australia completed an online survey which assessed parent-reported child screen use, screen time-related child behaviour problems, parents’ self-efficacy for managing child behaviour and screen time, parents’ beliefs about the positive/negative effects of screen time, parenting style, general child adjustment and parent efficacy, and parent distress. Correlation coefficients revealed relationships between dysfunctional parenting styles, screen time-related child behaviour problems, and parent self-efficacy for dealing with these behaviours. Using hierarchical multiple regression models, children’s screen time behaviour problems explained the greatest variance in parents’ self-efficacy for managing screen time, and parents’ self-efficacy for managing child screen time explained the greatest variance in parent-reported child screen time. Further research is needed to disentangle these relationships; however, preliminary results suggest that child behaviour difficulties and parents’ self-efficacy warrant further investigation as potentially useful targets for interventions aiming to improve screen use in early childhood.

Highlights

  • Dysfunctional parenting styles (laxness, overreactivity) correlated with greater screen time-related child behaviour problems.

  • Screen time-related behaviour problems were the strongest predictor of low parental self-efficacy for managing screen time.

  • Low self-efficacy for managing screen time was the strongest predictor of children’s (parent-reported) screen time.

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Data Availability

Ethical constraints prevent data being made publicly available.

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Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks to the parents who participated in this study.

Funding

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (DP140100781) and a Children’s Hospital Foundation Early Career Fellowship (AEM; award ref. no. 50223).

Author Contributions

S.H.: designed and executed the study, conducted data analyses, and wrote the paper. A.E.M.: designed and executed the study, wrote the paper. S.B.: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. A.M.: collaborated with the design and writing of the study.

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Correspondence to Amy E. Mitchell.

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Conflict of Interest

The Parenting and Family Support Centre is partly funded by royalties stemming from published resources of the Triple P—Positive Parenting Program, which is developed and owned by The University of Queensland (UQ). Royalties are also distributed to the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences at UQ and contributory authors of published Triple P resources. Triple P International (TPI) Pty Ltd is a private company licensed by Uniquest Pty Ltd on behalf of UQ, to publish and disseminate Triple P worldwide. The authors of this report have no share or ownership of TPI. A.M. receives royalties from TPI. TPI had no involvement in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, or writing of this report. A.E.M., S.B., and A.M. are employees at UQ.

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Halpin, S., Mitchell, A.E., Baker, S. et al. Parenting and Child Behaviour Barriers to Managing Screen Time With Young Children. J Child Fam Stud 30, 824–838 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01881-4

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Keywords

  • Child behaviour
  • Parenting
  • Self-efficacy
  • Media use
  • Young children