Children’s screen and problematic media use in the United States before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lauren Eales, Sarah Gillespie, Reece A. Alstat, Gail M. Ferguson, Stephanie M. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


This mixed methods study examined parent-reported child screen media use before and during the COVID-19 pandemic by examining 2019–2020 changes in parent perceptions of media, screen media use (SMU), and problematic media use (PMU) in children aged 2–13 years (N = 129; 64 boys, 64 girls, 1 nonbinary; 90.7% White, 4.6% Hispanic/Latino, 0.8% Black, 8.5% multiethnic; primarily middle-to-high income). Quantitative analyses showed a significant SMU and PMU increase (medium effect size). There was a steeper increase in PMU among school-age (older) children. Together, the qualitative and quantitative results suggest that the PMU and SMU increase were influenced by distal, proximal, and maintaining factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning, child behaviors, other children, parental mediation, and positive media reinforcement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e866-e882
JournalChild development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 6 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The first author was supported by a pre‐doctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number T32 MH015755. Data collection was supported by funds awarded to G. M. Ferguson and S. M. Carlson by the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Child Development © 2021 Society for Research in Child Development.


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