A Digital Childhood: How Electronic Toys Impact Parent-child Interaction and Children's Self-regulation

Open Access
Lomas, Lauren Rosemarie
Area of Honors:
Human Development and Family Studies
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jennifer Mary Zosh, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jennifer Mary Zosh, Honors Advisor
  • Pauline Bernadette Guerin, Faculty Reader
  • children
  • technology
  • self-regulation
  • parent
  • parent-child
  • interaction
It only takes a glance around a restaurant or in a museum to observe that technology is becoming more prevalent in children’s lives (Common Sense Media, 2014; Gray, Thomas, Lewis, & Tice, 2010) and that it impacts parent-child interactions (Radesky, Silverstein, Zuckerman, & Christakis, 2014). The question that has yet to be answered is how this increase in technology use is impacting children’s cognitive and socioemotional development. Some research has suggested that this technology may decrease the quality of parent-child interactions. For instance, Woolridge and Shapka (2012) found that electronic toys reduce the amount of interaction between parents and toddlers; specifically, the mothers were less responsive to their toddlers while engaging in play with an electronic toy. Further, Parish-Morris, Mahajan, Hirsh- Pasek, Golinkoff, and Collins (2013) found that when parents read an electronic book with their child they use more directive language than content-focused language and that the youngest (3- year old) children exhibited impaired story comprehension relative to those who read a traditional, non-electronic book. Here, we examine whether the type of toy a parent-child (ages 3-5 years old) dyad plays with – either electronic (an iPad) or non-electronic toy impacts 1) the quality of the parent-child interaction as marked by the amount and type of language used and 2) children’s ability to regulate their behavior using a classic self-regulation-task.