Longitudinal Associations of Electronic Application Use and Media Program Viewing with Cognitive and Psychosocial Development in Preschoolers
To investigate associations of traditional (program viewing) and contemporary (electronic applications, or apps) electronic media use with preschoolers’ executive function and psychosocial development 12 months later.
We conducted an analysis of longitudinal data from 185 children (mean age, 4.2 ± 0.6 years). Parents reported children's weekly electronic media use: 1) viewing programs on television or other devices and 2) app and game play using tablets, computers, consoles, or other devices. Direct assessments of children's executive functions (working memory, inhibition, and shifting) and educator-reported psychosocial difficulties were also collected. Linear regression models assessed associations between baseline predictors and developmental outcomes 12 months later, adjusting for covariates, preschool clustering, and baseline levels of predictors.
Higher levels of program viewing at baseline were significantly associated with increases in externalizing behaviors (β = 0.008; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.002–0.014; P = .010) and total difficulties (β = 0.013; 95% CI, 0.005–0.022; P = .005) at follow-up. High-dose app users (≥30 min/d) had a significantly lower inhibition score (mean difference = –0.04; 95% CI: –0.09 to –0.00; P = .044) at follow-up compared to low-dose app users (1 to 29 min/d).
Limiting electronic app use to <30 min/d and limiting media program viewing may be positively associated with preschool children's cognitive and psychosocial development.