The dramatic increase in the touchscreen exposure of very young children has raised issues regarding the potentials and perils that digital media practices bring to children’s development. This research examined the touchscreen practices among infants and toddlers based on mothers’ self-reports, focusing on amount of screen time and its predictors, type of media content consumed, and maternal motivations and involvement in the regulation of touchscreen use. Results revealed an early onset of children’s touchscreen use (ranging from 2-36 months). The children’s overall screen time averaged nearly two hours daily and they frequently used the touchscreen device to watch video shows. Evaluations of the type of content of shows viewed suggested that the mothers seemed to deliberately choose shows that were educational.

The current study revealed that the mothers’ motivations for children’s touchscreen use were related to their perceived benefits for their children and themselves. The primary benefit for children was educational (i.e., for learning). The primary parental benefit was instrumental—for mothers to be able to do work or household chores. The results also suggest that any strategy that diverts children’s attention away from the screen may be beneficial because they lead to alternative activities that may produce positive developmental outcomes. The study also showed that parents, particularly mothers, may have their own reasons for allowing their children to use touchscreen devices. Not only should there be a balance between children’s activities but there should also be a balance between meeting child-rearing objectives and the personal needs or goals of caregivers.

The current research is an important contribution to the area of digital media and child development in the Philippines because it provides preliminary yet much-needed baseline information regarding the basic touchscreen practices among infants and toddlers. It also contributes relevant information regarding parenting in the digital age. Because of the ubiquity of digital media devices, parents are faced with the challenge of inevitably integrating digital media in the lives of their children. The findings of the present study demonstrate, albeit incrementally in the
context of the ever-growing research on touchscreen use, that understanding child development in this digital age cannot be devoid of digital media use contexts. To better understand child development, examining the roles of amount of exposure, quality of media content, parental motivations and parental mediation is a must. Overall, this study highlights the valuable role that parents play in children’s development in the context of touchscreen use in the digital age.

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