Young Children and Screen Media: What does the Science Say?

Child using an iPad

What are the effects during infancy and early childhood?

Media has had a huge impact on families. A group of leading learning scientists including Assistant Professor Heather Kirkorian provide new findings in the field, and examine the effects of Heather Kirkorianbroad-based media on early child development by highlighting the role of content and context on learning and development from mobile media, learning from television and touchscreens during early childhood, how producers craft engaging characters to drive content delivery and more. A new book Media Exposure During Infancy and Early Childhood: The Effects of Content and Context on Learning and Development takes a fresh approach by creating a dialogue with community and industry leaders; a format that has not been seen before in academic books.

Highlights include:

  • The role of content and context on learning and development from mobile media.
  • Learning from TV and touchscreens during early childhood
  • Educational preschool programming.
  • How producers craft engaging characters to drive content delivery.
  • The parental media mediation context of young children’s media use.
  • Supporting children to find their own agency in learning.

“The Role of Online Processing in Young Children’s Learning from Interactive and Noninteractive Digital Media”

In this chapter Kirkorian, Pempek, and Choi consider how young children process information that is presented on screens. They describe new methods for assessing online processing while children watch video (e.g., eye movements, heart rate) in order to fully understand how children process digital media content. The authors find that that where children look, and how deeply they engage with content, changes dramatically with experience and affects what children learn from screen media. The authors also describe techniques that facilitate children’s transfer from screens to real-life objects, such as reducing cognitive load and creating interactive experiences with screens.

Michael Robb of Commonsense Media responded in his commentary that the implications for educators, families, and media makers are profound and actionable. Very young children can learn from screen media, and Robb discusses ways that caregivers and educators can be interactive around media in the home and school learning environments.

Media Exposure During Infancy and Early Childhood is an essential resource for parents, researchers, clinicians and related professionals, and graduate students in diverse fields including infancy and early childhood development, child and school psychology, social work, pediatrics, and educational psychology.


Media Exposure During Infancy and Early Childhood: The Effects of Content and Context on Learning and Development (Springer, 2016)

Editors Rachel Barr and Deborah Nichols Linebarger

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