Only So Many Hours in a Day: Early Childhood Screen Time in Boston and Mexico City

Lisa B. Hurwitz, David S. Bickham, Summer H. Moukalled, Michael Rich


According to the displacement hypothesis, screen media use might displace time children have to devote to other activities. In this study, we tested the displacement and related hypotheses, and explored how associations varied cross-culturally. We collected time-use diaries from 198 children in Boston, United States (U.S.), and Mexico City, Mexico. Comparing across research sites, children in Mexico City invested more time consuming media, while Boston children spent more time playing outdoors. In Boston, time spent using media was negatively associated with engagement in play and several other in-home activities, while in Mexico City, media use was positively associated with indoor activities like play. In both sites, media use and time spent outside were inversely related. We interpret these findings considering (a) the displacement and other competing hypotheses on the effects of media on children’s time use and (b) known cultural/regional differences between the U.S. and Mexico.



time use, early childhood, displacement hypothesis, screen time, international research

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