Objectively measured infant and toddler screen time: Findings from a prospective study

Mary E. Brushe, John W. Lynch, Edward Melhuish, Sheena Reilly, Murthy N. Mittinty, Sally A. Brinkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Screen time guidelines recommend no screens under two years due to the potential negative impacts on development. While current reports suggest many children exceed this, research relies on parent reports of their children's screen exposure. We objectively assess screen exposure during the first two years and how it differs by maternal education and gender. Methods: This Australian prospective cohort study used speech recognition technology to understand young children's screen exposure over an average day. Data collection occurred every six months when children were 6, 12, 18 and, 24 months old (n = 207). The technology provided automated counts of children's exposure to electronic noise. Audio segments were then coded as screen exposure. Prevalence of screen exposure was quantified, and differences between demographics examined. Results: At six months, children were exposed to an average of 1hr, 16 min (SD = 1hr, 36 min) of screens per day, increasing to an average of 2 h, 28 min (SD = 2 h, 4 min) by 24-months. Some children at six months were exposed to more than 3 h of screen time per day. Inequalities in exposure were evident as early as six months. Children from higher educated families were exposed to 1hr,43 min fewer screens per day, 95%CI (-2hr, 13 min, -1hr, 11 min) compared to lower educated households, with this difference remaining consistent as children age. Girls were exposed to an additional 12 min of screens 95%CI (−20 min, 44 min) per day compared to boys at six months, but this difference reduced to only 5 min by 24-months. Conclusion: Using an objective measure of screen exposure, many families exceed screen time guidelines, the extent increasing with child's age. Furthermore, substantial differences between maternal education groups emerge as young as six months old. This highlights the need for education and supports for parents around screen use in the early years, balanced within the realities of modern life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101395
JournalSSM - Population Health
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


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