Mothers’ views of their preschool child’s screen-viewing behaviour: a qualitative study

Georgina F Bentley, Katrina M Turner, Russ Jago

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
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Research on screen-viewing in preschool children has predominantly focused on television viewing. The rapid development of mobile devices (e.g. tablets, smart phones and e-readers) and the increase in their use by preschool children means there is a need to understand how and why these devices are used by this age group. The aim of this study was to explore mothers’ views of their preschool children’s screen viewing behaviour (including mobile devices) and investigate how preschool children use different screen-viewing devices.


One-to-one, semi-structured interviews with mothers of preschool children (aged between 2 and 4 years old). Mothers were recruited through preschools, nurseries, and mother and toddler groups located within four areas of varying socio-economic status within Bristol, UK. Data were analysed thematically using a framework approach.


Twenty-six mothers were interviewed. Mobile devices were regularly used as a form of screen-viewing for most children but were used on an ad hoc basis rather than being a habitual activity. The reasons and influences of mobile device use described by mothers were similar to that of television viewing. However, the portability of mobile devices meant that they were often used outside of the home as a distraction tool. Their multi-functionality meant that they could be used as a portable television, or for purposeful learning through educational games and applications. Some mothers showed concerns over mobile device use by their child, whilst others felt it was an important and useful educational tool. Although the majority of mothers felt they needed to set rules and restrictions for mobile device use, many mothers felt that they are also a necessary and unavoidable part of life.


Mothers in this study suggested that mobile device use by preschool children is common. More research is needed to determine the impact of mobile device use in preschool children, how much time preschool children spend using mobile devices and which activities their use may be replacing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number718
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2016


  • Preschool child
  • Parenting
  • Screen-viewing
  • Sedentary behaviour
  • Qualitative research


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