Getting access to a screen is as easy as opening a book. While it would be nice to say this only applies to adults, it very much applies to youth, including toddlers and preschoolers. What is the relationship between screen use and reading for these young children? McArthur et al (10.1542/peds.2020-011429) share with us an analysis of data collected on 2,440 mother-child dyads in Calgary, Alberta, where screen use and reading activities were reported by mothers for their children at 24, 36, and 60 months of age. Controlling for relevant confounders, the authors found that increased screen use for children at 24 months was associated with less reading time for mother and child at 36 months, and that less reading time at 36 months was associated with increased screen use at 60 months. While the authors note some important limitations in their analysis including issues of generalizability (given the higher income and educated sample of parents studied) as well as lacking information on what was watched, these results are still concerning.
To help us better understand what we can do in response to these findings, we invited pediatric screen time and media use expert Dr. Jenny Radesky from the University of Michigan to weigh in with an accompanying commentary (10.1542/peds.2020-047472). She notes the strengths of this study and additional limitations, but also provides some thoughts on what may be driving these associations, including parents’ inability to establish early- on daily reading routines. Her call for those designing digital media for children to join in research efforts to determine how to use digital media to enhance a child’s cognitive and emotional development is well worth considering. Take some time to read this important study and commentary, which will hopefully make you even more proactive in emphasizing the AAP guidelines on screen time use in children of all ages. (REF policy statement).