Child Media Use during COVID-19: Associations with Contextual and Social-Emotional Factors

Tiffany Munzer, Chioma Torres, Sarah E. Domoff, Kimberley J. Levitt, Harlan McCaffery, Alexandria Schaller, Jenny S. Radesky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective:The aim of this study was to test associations between (1) contextual factors and types of digital media use and (2) types of digital media use and children's social-emotional and sleep outcomes during COVID-19.Methods:In February to March 2021, 303 parents of elementary schoolers participated in this cross-sectional survey gathering information on demographics, child school format, contextual factors, duration of types of digital media use, social-emotional outcomes, and sleep. Multivariable regressions examined associations outlined in the objective, adjusting for school format, only child, race/ethnicity, and parental stress, depressive symptoms, education, and material hardship.Results:Children were aged 5 years to younger than 11 years and spent approximately 4 hours on screen media daily. In multivariable analyses, remote school format; greater material hardship; Black, Indigenous, and people of color child race/ethnicity; lower parenting stress; and parent depressive symptoms were associated with longer duration of various digital media. Longer daily duration of streaming video and video chat were associated with higher prosocial scores, while console games, mobile apps/games, and video-sharing platforms were associated with greater problematic media use (PMU) (defined as interfering with adaptive functioning). More time on mobile apps/games, video-sharing platforms, and video streaming was linked with shorter sleep.Conclusion:Lower parenting stress predicted greater digital media use. Greater digital media use during the pandemic may have enabled parents to focus on other needs. Use of media for social connection predicted greater prosocial behaviors. Engagement-prolonging digital media predicted PMU. Pediatric providers may wish to consider family context when addressing digital media use and encourage socially oriented digital media.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E573-E580
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022


  • COVID-19
  • child social-emotional development
  • digital media
  • remote school
  • sleep


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