Research Projects Using Growing Up Data

Assessing the impact of screen time on children’s language, literacy, and social functioning from infancy to age 8

Publication Date:
Lead Organisation:
Child Well-being Research Institute University of Canterbury
Lead Researcher:
Megan Gath, Brigid McNeill, Gail Gillon, Humaira Hakeemi, Lianne Woodward
Access Type:
Primary Classification:
Psych and Cog
Secondary Classification:

Rapid changes in the availability and use of screen-media has resulted in dramatic shifts in how children and families spend their time, with increasing amounts of time now spent watching or interacting with screens. Yet very little is known about the short and longer term impacts of screen exposure time on child development and family relations, or how to manage/mitigate any potential risks.

Our overall objective is to examine associations between screen time (television viewing and electronic media use), the home environment, and children’s language, literacy, and social functioning (e.g. social competence) during the critical early years from infancy (9 months) to age 8 years. We hypothesize that higher levels of screen time will adversely affect children’s outcomes, with these associations mediated by lower levels of face-to-face social interactions with family and peers.

To achieve these objectives we will use GUiNZ data collected from parents and children from child age 9 months to 8 years on:

• Nature and quantity of child screen exposure (e.g., television, electronic media)

• Language and literacy (e.g., vocabulary, letter fluency)

• Social functioning (e.g., peer relationships, social information processing)

• Characteristics of the home environment (e.g., reading books, play) and parent-child relationship

• Family social background and other child characteristics.

Linear regression and structural equation models will be used to determine the impact of screen time across infancy and childhood on opportunities for social interaction and later language, literacy, and social functioning. Study findings will advance understanding about the influence of screen use on child language/literacy and social development.