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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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How do young children access and use digital media? How are families engaging with their children’s use of digital media? What is the impact of digital media use on child development? These and other related questions are examined in the entries that follow in this downloadable Research Spotlight. As early childhood experts conduct more studies about young children’s experiences with digital media, including television, tablets, and smartphones, practitioners who serve families can use research to guide family engagement in a digital media environment. The emerging research tells us that:    

  • Effective uses of technology and media are active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering for children;
  • Carefully monitored screen time experience with quality content can benefit children over age 3, but excessive screen time harms healthy growth and development, regardless of content;
  • Young children may benefit from computer use if appropriate software is selected;
  • Children can learn through joint media engagement with parents, grandparents, siblings, and peers;
  • Parents are more likely to consider the educational benefits of technology for their children than to consider the downsides.

Learn more about research findings and recommendations from the research briefs, reports, and other entries in this Research Spotlight (PDF).

Inclusion in this resource does not equate with endorsement of the reports and/or articles. We welcome your suggestions for additional materials and reasons for choosing them. Contact us at

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Published by Harvard Family Research Project