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Mobile Devices for Calming May Harm Young Children’s Emotion Regulation

Authors say mobile devices for calming should be avoided in preschool-aged boys, children with higher surgency

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Use of mobile devices for calming should be avoided in preschool-aged boys and young children with higher surgency, according to a study published online Dec. 12 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Jenny S. Radesky, M.D., from University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined associations between the parent-reported frequency of using mobile devices to calm young children and children’s executive functioning and emotional reactivity. The analysis included a community-based convenience sample of 422 English-speaking parents of typically developing children aged 3 to 5 years.

The researchers found that among the boys, the use of devices to calm at three-month follow-up was associated with higher emotional reactivity at six months. Higher emotional reactivity at three months was not significantly associated with increased device use for calming at six months. The use of devices to calm at three months was associated with increased emotional reactivity at six months among children with high temperamental surgency. Higher emotional reactivity at three months was associated with increased device use for calming at six months.

“The findings of this study suggest that the frequent use of mobile devices for calming young children may displace their opportunities for learning emotion-regulation strategies over time; therefore, pediatric health care professionals may wish to encourage alternate calming approaches,” the authors write.

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