Potential association between toddler behavior and infant media exposure

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1. Children who displayed problems in their ability to self-regulate (self-soothe, fall asleep, self-entertain, etc…) were likely to watch more television and movies at age 2 than children with sufficient self-regulating abilities.

2. Toddlers who regressed in their self-regulating behaviors between 9 months to 2 years of age were more likely to watch > 2 hours of media each day than children who improved in this same time period. 

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: Excessive media exposure has been shown to have profound effects on early childhood development, but little is known about the association between baseline child behaviors and early childhood media exposure. Researchers prospectively evaluated the relationship between self-regulation problems, such as excessive fussing, poor self-soothing, and difficulties falling asleep, and daily media exposure, defined as watching TV or videos. Children with moderate to severe self-regulation issues at 9 months and 2 years old watched more media per day at 24 months of age than children with no or mild issues. Children whose self-regulation skills worsened were more likely to watch > 2 hours of media per day than children who improved over the same period. Data may be limited by the inability to measure background TV exposure and reliance on parental reporting. These results may aid physicians in discussions with parents regarding their motivations behind specific media choices and help to recommend more educational forms.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics 

Relevant Reading: Media use by children younger than 2 years. Council on communications and media.

In-Depth [retrospective cohort study]: Researchers conducted a secondary analysis on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). A total of 7450 children were included for analysis. Twins and toddlers with developmental delay or congenital diseases were excluded from the study. Parents completed a modified Infant Toddler Symptom Checklist (ITSC) at 9 months and 2 years of age; the ITSC is a validated scale used to identify children with self-regulatory disorders. Daily media hours were calculated by averaging weekday hours with weekend hours. Researchers used multivariable linear regression models to evaluate the relationship between child self-regulation behaviors and media exposure. At 2 years of age, toddlers viewed an average of 2.3 hours of media per day. Infants age 9 months with moderate/severe self-regulation problems and toddlers with persistent self-regulation issues (problems at 9 months and 2 years of age) watched more media than children with no or mild self-regulation problems at age 2 (p < .0001). Infants at 9 months with moderate to severe problems watched 0.15 more hours (95% CI 0.02-0.28) of media per day than children with no/mild problems. Children with persistent self-regulatory problems at 24 months consumed 0.21 more hours (95% 0.03- 0.30) of media per day than the reference group.

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