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Social-Emotional Difficulty Linked to Toddler Mobile Tech Use

Toddlers with more social-emotional problems more likely to be given mobile technology to calm down

WEDNESDAY, March 2, 2016 (HealthDay News) — There is a correlation between increased social-emotional difficulties in toddlers and the tendency of low-income parents to use mobile technology to calm their children in certain situations, according to a research letter published online Feb. 29 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Jenny S. Radesky, M.D., from Boston Medical Center, and colleagues examined the correlation between the social-emotional development of toddlers and mobile media use in a sample of parent-toddler dyads. One hundred forty-four parents of healthy children aged 15 to 36 months were recruited and surveyed. Demographic information was collected and social-emotional development was assessed using the validated Baby or Preschool Pediatric Symptom Checklist.

The researchers found that children with social-emotional difficulties (Baby or Preschool Pediatric Symptom Checklist Score ≥9; 40.3 percent) had an increased prevalence of being given mobile technology as a calming tool when upset (61.8 versus 38.1 percent) and to keep peace and quiet in the house (69.6 versus 51.2 percent); during other situations such as eating, being in public, doing chores, or at bedtime, there were no differences observed. The associations between social-emotional difficulties and mobile technology use persisted after adjustment for potential confounders. Stronger associations were seen for parents with low versus high perceived control for calming down and for keeping peace and quiet in the house.

“Longitudinal studies are needed to understand the transactional relationship between the use of digital technology and the developmental trajectories of children,” the authors write.

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