The Role of the Home Environment in Preschool Children’s Screen Time

The DAGIS Research Group led by Eva Roos has recently studied the role of home environment on preschool children’s screen time. Previous studies suggest that preschoolers from low parental educational backgrounds engage in more screen time. Still, the factors in the home environment driving these differences in preschool children’s screen time are previously poorly studied. The study brought, therefore, new and important knowledge on factors associated in between parental education and preschool children’s screen time.

The study is a part of the DAGIS project (www.dagis.fi). A total of 864 children aged 3–6 years and their parents participated in a cross-sectional DAGIS study in 2015–2016. Parents recorded their children’s screen time in a diary (N=823). Parental questionnaires (N=808) assessed educational level and social and physical environment factors in the home. The following mediators (factors acting in between parental education and children’s screen time) were studied: descriptive norm for children’s screen time, parental screen use in front of children, parental importance for limiting children’s screen time, parental attitude toward societal pressures for children’s screen time, access to screens at home, parental self-efficacy for limiting children’s screen time, satisfaction of children’s screen time, and rules for limiting children’s screen time.

Of the potential eight mediators, the following four had a significant indirect association: descriptive norm for children’s screen time, parental screen use in front of children, parental importance for limiting children’s screen time, and parental attitude toward societal pressures for children’s screen time. Parents with high education had lower descriptive norm and used fewer screens in front of children compared to parents with middle or low education, and in turn, these factors were associated with less screen time among children from parents with a higher education level. Parents with high education placed greater importance on limiting children’s screen time and felt less societal pressures about children’s screen time compared to parents with low education, and in turn, these factors were associated with less screen time among children from parents with a higher education level.

Based on the results of this study, when aiming to diminish socioeconomic status differences in preschool children’s screen time, the focus should be on parental role models, attitudes, and norm related to children’s screen time. Future health promotion projects should acknowledge these factors when designing the methods and materials for their projects.

 

Original study:
Määttä S, Kaukonen R, Vepsäläinen H, Lehto E, Ylönen A, Ray C, Erkkola M, Roos E. The mediating role of the home environment in relation to parental educational level and preschool children’s screen time: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 17: 688, 2017