Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Developmental Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Eileen Wood

Advisor Role



Despite recommendations of no screen time for children under the age of 2, parents are introducing mobile technology to their children at very young ages (Rideout, 2013). While research on television use has found negative impacts in all areas of development (Barr, Lauricella, Zack & Clavert, 2010), research has yet to investigate the impact of mobile technology use with very young children. The current set of 3 studies included interviews, a survey, and direct observations of parents using mobile technology with children 1 to 2 years of age. The main finding across all studies was that parents introduce mobile technology to their children at increasingly earlier ages. In particular, parents are using smartphones more frequently than tablets with their younger children. While parents indicated mixed opinions and a number of concerns about the use of mobile technology with very young children, this did not discourage them from using the devices with their young children. Rationales for providing mobile technology to their very young child were consistent across studies and included the need for parent time, avoidance or alleviation of the child’s boredom and potential educational benefits. While touchscreen technology is commonly perceived as easy to use, observations of children in this age group indicate a lack of necessary cognitive and fine motor skills to efficiently operate the devices. Parents compensated for children’s limitations by selecting passive activities such as watching videos or by taking control of the device which was consistent across all studies. The use of mobile technology for passive activities to preoccupy the child, is a concern that may result in similar negative developmental outcomes that are found for television viewing rather than enhancing children’s learning opportunities through technology. This study was a first to indicate that there may be a decrease in verbal interactions while using mobile technology, similar to the decrease in interactions found when children are exposed to television. Contradicting evidence was found to the common perception that mobile technology is inherently interesting. While children showed an initial interest in a novel device, this was not necessarily sustained. However, repeated exposure to mobile technology may be important for encouraging ongoing or further interest. When investigating potential developmental implications contradicting results were found among two of the studies. Self-reported developmental assessments from the survey showed higher fine-motor and problem solving scores in those that had also indicated that their child had been introduced to mobile technology versus those that had not been introduced. However, when using an objective assessment of development higher frequency of mobile technology use was related to lower scores in fine-motor development. Although observations of joint parent-child media play suggest that learning potential from mobile technology may best be supported when parents actively engage with their child, it is clear that parents may need more information to consistently promote this type of engagement. Extending beyond the confines of the study, outcomes do support the need to develop guidelines to ensure that parents know how to maximize the benefits from mobile technology and minimize potential deficits.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season