My doctoral research was made up of 3 main projects. The first aimed to identify the predictors of screen time for preschool children, the second looked at the potential associations between screen media use and executive functions and symptoms in inattention/hyperactivity. The third project tackled the subject of “technoference”, the phenomenon where people are distracted by their mobile technology and pay less attention to people who are with them in person. For this research, we looked at the potential effects of technoference on parent-infant interactions. Since completing my thesis, I have undertaken a new project re-examining what the “digital divide” is in the New Zealand context and how this might impact on children’s self-rated academic competence. Although I intend to interpret these and share the implications of the findings in my blogs, I give some more information about these different research projects below, as hopefully having a bit of an outline here to refer to if needed will help minimise repetition in the blogs. Note that I had several co-researchers work on these projects with me, and you can see the full list of authors by following the links to the research papers.
The predictors of screen time during the preschool years
By predictors of screen time I mean the things that are associated with screen time levels and linked to screen time being higher or lower than the amount of screen time children have on average. When research identifies a “modifiable” predictor, i.e., something that parents can do something about, this can be useful if parents think there is a need to reduce their children’s screen time. (I say “reduce” because parents are typically not looking for ways to increase their children’s screen time! I think Covid-19 lockdowns have taken care of that for us – understandably! And as I write this we are in another – long – lockdown in Auckland,) My research looked at the predictors of screen time at 2 years and 4.5 years. Read more…
Potential associations between screen media use and executive functions, and symptoms of inattention/hyperactivity during the preschool years
One of our studies looked at whether screen time was associated with preschool children executive functions, and attention. Executive functions relate to set of brain functions that enable people to achieve specific goals. These include working memory, set shifting (e.g. changing from one part of a task to another), or inhibitory control, which is when someone stop themselves from doing something. There are others as well, but these are seen as core executive functions. Attention is seen as an aspect of executive function as well. Being able to pay attention and having good executive functions has many benefits for children’s cognitive, social and behavioural development and skills, and supports their academic achievement. So it is very useful to find out if there are any links between executive functions, attention and screen time, to try to promote the best development and outcomes for young children.
The associations between “technoference”, parent-infant interactions and infants’ vocabulary development
Technoference is a term for when screen technology distracts us from our interactions with people who are with us in person. In this study, were interested in whether mobile phone use might affect the way that parents interact with their infants even when the parent isn’t using their phone. We investigated the associations between different forms of technoference, key markers of parent-child interactions (responsiveness, directiveness, scaffolding and coordinated joint attention), and infants’ vocabulary. Read more…
Re-evaluating the “digital divide” – is the way that children interact with screen technologies related to their self-reported academic competence
At the moment I have a series of new studies in progress, looking at how the “digital divide” might impact on children’s self-assessment of their academic competence. Basically, how good they think they are at their school work. The studies will build on each other, firstly finding out how school age children in NZ use screens outside of school, then whether self-assessed academic competence depends more on the way children use screens in the home, and finally, what are some of the influences on the ways in which children engage with screens.