Introduction to my blog

On 30 June 2021 I submitted my doctoral thesis! My research topic is one of great interest and importance in today’s society – the role of media exposure in early childhood development and the influence parents can have on their preschool children’s screen use. I have been fortunate enough to receive a University of Auckland Faculty of Science PhD impact award to disseminate the findings of my research, and writing a blog is one way to get the information out there to parents and others who may be interested in what I have found out. Prepare to be enlightened and surprised, because is not necessarily what you might think!

Everyone seems to have an opinion of preschool children’s screen media use. Interestingly, even though most adults are avid users of screen technologies themselves, and generally have their phones with them at all times now, most adults I have spoken to seem to have grave concerns about screen use by preschool children. If there are people who think there is nothing to be concerned about, I have not met them!

I think the media has had a lot to do with how children’s use of screen media is perceived. Although I have to concede that recently I have noted more positive reporting of children’s screen use and guidance for parents (perhaps due to experiencing Covid-19 lockdowns where parents could be excused for offering their children more screen time?), at the time I began my research, the news was all bad. The main focus was on screen time, not how children were using screens. Guidelines were issued in many countries recommending the levels of screen time that children should have. These were not always taken well by parents. Although I personally feel that the New Zealand guidelines of about an hour of screen time per day for children 2 to 5 years old is about right, and I think that the New Zealand guidelines are presented very positively and constructively, of course there needs to be some flexibility for parents to decide what is best for their own child and family circumstances. Hopefully by sharing some of my research findings I will be able to equip parents to make some of these decisions.

I have been thinking about how I would like to sequence my blogs so that they are most useful for parents. I think that a good place to start would be to look at the potential effects of screen media exposure in today’s media environment, looking at my own research but also delving into the findings of other contemporary researchers to give readers a really good overview of what the potential outcomes of preschool children’s screen media use might be. The positives and the negatives!

My research also had a very strong focus on “media parenting”, the way that parents manage their children’s screen time and allow them to engage with screens. Media parenting is no different to other forms of parenting in many ways, but it is perhaps more challenging in many families because screens are omnipresent and used for carrying out so many of our daily activities, it is hard to escape them. Plus children seem to love using screens, don’t they?

Overall, I hope there will be scope for sharing some of the evidence from my research, reflecting on findings of other important research in the field, and also sharing some of my own perspectives on screen use of preschool children.

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