OBJECTIVES: Examine prospective associations between parent-reported early childhood self-regulation problems and media exposure (television and video viewing) at 2 years. We hypothesized that children with poor self-regulation would consume more media, possibly as a parent coping strategy.
METHODS: We used data from 7450 children in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort. When children were 9 months and 2 years old, parents completed the Infant Toddler Symptom Checklist (ITSC), a validated scale of self-regulation. With daily media use at 2 years as our outcome, we conducted weighted multivariable regression analyses, controlling for child, maternal, and household characteristics.
RESULTS: Children watched an average of 2.3 hours per day (SD 1.9) of media at age 2 years. Infants with poor self-regulation (9-month ITSC score ≥3) viewed 0.23 hour per day (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.12–0.35) more media at 2 years compared with those with 9-month ITSC score of 0 to 2; this remained significant in adjusted models (0.15 hour per day [95% CI 0.02–0.28]). Children rated as having persistent self-regulation problems (ITSC ≥3 at both 9 months and 2 years) were even more likely to consume media at age 2 (adjusted β 0.21 hour per day [95% CI 0.03–0.39]; adjusted odds ratio for >2 hours per day 1.40 [95% CI 1.14–1.71]). These associations were slightly stronger in low socioeconomic status and English-speaking households.
CONCLUSIONS: Early childhood self-regulation problems are associated with mildly increased media exposure, even after controlling for important confounding variables. Understanding this relationship may provide insight into helping parents reduce their children’s screen time.
- Accepted February 10, 2014.
- Copyright © 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics