While recent research has documented a rapid increase in the use of new technologies such as touchscreen tablets early in life, little is known about how young children use tablets, what activities they engage in, and whether family demographic and maternal well-being are associated with early use. Guided by Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of human development, the current study addressed these questions with a cross-sectional, online survey of mothers with children between 12 and 48 months of age. Mothers reported on their child’s tablet use as well as their own personal well-being (depressive symptoms and role overload) and relational well-being (relationship satisfaction, coparenting quality, conflict frequency). Nearly 63 % of all mothers owned a tablet. Approximately 46 % of children with access typically use a tablet in an average day, with the majority using for 15 min or less. For families who owned a tablet, child’s frequency of use was positively associated with child’s age and mother’s use and negatively associated with mother’s relational well-being. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that screen media be avoided for children under 24 months, children in our study used tablets, albeit infrequently. Our findings suggest that it is important for researchers to consider the relationship between contextual factors within the family and child media use. Refining their focus for families with particular needs may allow child advocates and policy makers to develop more beneficial media recommendations for families with a variety of circumstances.

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Journal of Child and Family Studies

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