How and Why Do Six-Month-Old Babies Interact with Screens?

This post is part of our series on Digital Media and Children Under 3published with collaboration from the journal, Child Behavior and Development. Featured research shows a special issue focused on how young children interact with technology and ways parents can facilitate media engagement to promote positive development.

Key takeaways for caregivers

  • Screens can be beneficial to but can also prove problematic for growing babies.
  • More than half of the babies in a child development study were exposed to screens by six months and many had a screen in the bedroom where they slept.
  • Mothers reported using infant screens for at least 1-3 hours a day and during daily activities, such as during meals, at bedtime, while waiting, and for calming down. in infants.
  • Maternal stress did not predict infants’ use of screens, but mothers’ education level did.
  • Research suggests we need to learn from caregivers why they offer screens to their young children, as well as the need for more guidance and resources for caregivers about exposure. and screen time use.

Screen use can negatively affect caregiver-child attachment and children’s development

The popularity of cell phones, tablets, and other screens is undeniable and has changed our world, mostly for the better. These media are instruments of daily life, helping us navigate time and location.

Mothers’ self-reports of their perceived stress levels did not predict whether a screen was provided. However, educational attainment predicts screen exposure.

They allow us to read on the move, serve as a form of entertainment, and we are connected fast and easy with those around and around the world. Screen devices are everywhere, and exposure to them now even beyond adults to include teenagers, tweensand little children.

Yet while cell phones help us connect, so can they will serve as a disconnect. The challenges of INTERRUPTIONor teknoferencerevealed in mature relationships and, in similar ways, can be special maim for parents and other caregivers of young children.

Young children form a UNITY to parents and guardians, relying on them to satisfy needs for food, warmth, safety, and affection. By attending to a child’s cues, a parent engages in the kind of repetitive interactions that strengthen development (Maccoby et al., 1983).

Research shows that a child’s healthy development depends in part on the consistency of these repeated interactions, sometimes called serving and returning. A lot of evidence shows that LANGUAGES, emotionaland cognitive development it all begins with small and unscripted interactions between caregiver and child.

But research shows that too screens can sometimes maim or interfere with this type of interactions between a parents and their childrenand may result in CHANGES on children sleep, LANGUAGES, executive functionand attention.

Photo: Sunvani Hoang. Pexels.

A study of mothers’ screen use of their infants

Given the importance of reciprocal relationships between caregivers and young children, we conducted a study to understand why some mothers provide screens to their infants and others do not. As mothers offered screens for many reasons, we studied whether mothers’ descriptions of their own stress levels and their educational attainment played a role.

Our study used data from an ongoing study that sought to understand how early childhood experiences influence child developmental outcomes. Eighty-two mothers were invited to share their prenatal experiences with our team of researchers, completing surveys that asked, among other questions, about their stress levels and their educational attainment. achievement. Our sample of mothers was diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and educational attainment.

After giving birth, the mothers were contacted periodically until their child was three years old. When the child was six months old, the mothers were invited to return with their child to the research lab. At this visit, mothers were asked if their child was exposed to screens. If they answered yes, the mothers were given a survey that asked about the ways the child was exposed to screens, including questions about what they watched, who they were with, and for how long.

Caregivers may not be fully aware that screens can interfere with parent-child interaction and children’s development.

Many babies are exposed to screens through everyday activities

Forty-three of the six-month-olds were exposed to screens, with 28 (70%) having a screen in the bedroom where they slept. About one-third of infants are screened at mealtimes, while sleeping, and while waiting at the doctor’s office. About half of mothers reported offering a screen to calm their infant. More than half of mothers reported providing between 1-3 hours of screen time per day, and about one-third reported providing more than 3 hours of screen time per day.

Mothers’ self-reports of their perceived stress levels did not predict whether they gave their infants a screen. However, mothers’ educational attainment predicted screen exposure: Less maternal education was associated with mothers offering screens to their infants more often.

This information is important to consider when thinking about screen use in infants but should be taken at face value. Our study was a small sample of mothers and infants. We didn’t talk to the mothers about why they gave their babies screens so we can only try to interpret their survey responses without knowing the full picture of the babies’ early experiences.

One possibility is that stress is felt universally by parents of infants and thus, is not a strong predictor of who will provide a screen. However, educational attainment is not uniform or equitable among people in the United States, and it may be a marker of knowledge about screens or other characteristics that predict screen use.

babies interact with screens

Photo: px gasoline.

Educating parents about screen exposure and use is important

Researchers need to better understand why mothers offer screens to their babies. Caregivers may not be fully aware that screens can interfere with parent-child interaction and children’s development. They may be less prepared by people they encounter in health care or social service settings to consider screen exposure and use by their infants in the same way they consider, for example, feeding or providing safe state of sleep.

Given the findings from our study that screen use and daily caregiving activities may be intertwined for some caregivers, health care and social workers service should facilitate these conversations with new parents.

We hope to continue research on this topic so that we can better understand how the level of education of parents is related to social supports or services for mothers. We also want to understand more fully how these supports for parents of infants can reduce the need to provide screens at specific times of the day (eg, mealtime, bedtime , while waiting) and for long periods.

If you’re a caregiver with questions about your baby’s screen exposure and use, visit AAP websitewhere there is MEANS for caregivers, incl guides screen use for young children. Additionally, ask your pediatrician or other health care provider questions about age-appropriate screen use so you can learn how to navigate the potentially stressful times when one’s distraction ka screen seems to help.

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