Screen media overuse is associated with negative physical and mental health effects in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen media use at home; however, there are no similar guidelines for children’s hospitals. This study was conducted to explore caregiver (parent or other guardian) perceptions about screen media use, compare at-home with in-hospital screen media use, and measure screen use among hospitalized children.


We obtained data from a convenience cohort of hospitalized children at a single, comprehensive tertiary care children’s hospital over 3 periods of 2 weeks each from 2013 to 2014. Home and hospital screen media use was measured through survey and study personnel directly observed hospital screen use. Descriptive statistics are reported and generalized estimating equation was used to identify characteristics associated with screen media use.


Observation (n = 1490 observations) revealed screen media on 80.3% of the time the hospitalized child was in the room and awake, and 47.8% of observations with direct attention to a screen. Surveyed caregivers reported their child engaging in significantly more screen media use in the hospital setting as compared with home, and 42% of caregivers reported the amount of screen time used by their child in the hospital was more than they would have liked.


Hospitalized children have access to a variety of screen media, and this media is used at rates far higher than recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children’s hospitals should consider developing guidelines for screen media use.

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