Improving the Quality of Screen Exposure in Early Childhood: an Experiment on Parental beliefs

Last registered on June 06, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Improving the Quality of Screen Exposure in Early Childhood: an Experiment on Parental beliefs
Initial registration date
May 29, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 06, 2023, 3:34 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Universidad de la Rep├║blica

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
European University Institute

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial is based on or builds upon one or more prior RCTs.
The aim of this project is to analyze the effects of providing information to parents on the quantity and quality of screen exposure in early childhood. We randomly provide evidence-based recommendations on best practices to the main caregivers of children between 0 and 5 years of age. Parental practices and beliefs regarding screen exposure are gathered through online surveys. This allow us to identify the causal effect of an information policy on parental beliefs and decisions regarding early screen exposure. Our primary outcomes are: screen time, co-viewing, content quality, screen habits, parental use of screens and a summary index of the child's media exposure (quantity and quality). Our secondary outcomes are parental beliefs on screen exposure.

The experiment takes place in Uruguay. Potential participants receive an invitation to participate in the study and a small survey to determine eligibility. If individuals are eligible, they receive the baseline survey. Those that fill-out the baseline survey are randomly assigned to treatment and control. The information treatment is provided at the end of the baseline survey. The intervention consists on a short video with information on regulation of media time and best practices during exposure based on recognised health-institutions. Moreover, a digital leaflet with personalized tips on screen exposure is provided. The expected sample size is between 1,500 and 3,000 caregivers at baseline.

The control group is active, receiving an analogous intervention on an unrelated parenting topic: feeding practices in early childhood. We use this cross-intervention design to provide an estimate of experimenter demand effects in parenting practices.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Colombo, Karina and Elisa Failache. 2023. "Improving the Quality of Screen Exposure in Early Childhood: an Experiment on Parental beliefs." AEA RCT Registry. June 06.
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Experimental Details


The objective of the intervention is to promote beneficial practices regarding screen exposure in early childhood. The treatment entails the provision of information to parents on how to improve their child's relation with digital screens. The information is provided through a short video and personalized digital leaflets included in the baseline online survey.

We designed the intervention based on scientific literature on the topic and on recommendations made by trustworthy institutions, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF Uruguay. Considering the state of the literature, we focus on the following concepts: video deficit and opportunity cost of screens, co-viewing with caregivers, children's media diet and caregivers' media use.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We plan to evaluate one dimension on screen quantity and four other dimensions on the quality of exposure, as follows:

1) Screen time.
2) Co-viewing practices.
3) Quality of content.
4) Screen time habits
5) Background exposure.
6) Caregivers' use of screens.

Moreover, we will construct a summary index of child's screen exposure considering all dimensions (quantity and quality), a summary index of quantity and a summary index of quality.

Primary Outcomes (explanation)
For each dimension we will construct indices consider the following aspects:

1) Screen time
We measure hours and minutes of screen time on a typical weekday and on a typical weekend day.

2) Co-viewing practices
We measure co-viewing practices by asking how much of the total screen time is done together with an adult watching with the child.

3) Quality of content
We measure the quality of content in three ways: through a question on adult knowledge on the content watched, through questions on labelling of content watched (for children, as educational, as suitable for child's age), and through use of parental controls.

4) Screen time habits
We measure this dimension using questions on rules concerning time, moments and content, and another set of questions concerning moments of exposure (while eating, before sleep or during tantrums).

5) Background exposure
We measure this by considering how much time is the television on as background exposure.

6) Caregivers' use of screens
We measure this by assessing the feeling of distraction of the caregiver while taking care of the child due to cellphone use.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
- Parental beliefs.
- Learning of information provided in the video.
- Reasons for using screens.
- Activities performed with the child and an adult.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
To help understand the potential channels of our effects we collect information on:

- Parental beliefs: subjective assessment of adequate screen time, beliefs on screen exposure and child development, beliefs on malleability of children's skills to parental investment.

- Learning of information provided in the video.

- Reasons for using screens (such as entertainment, to keep him/her busy, learning, soothing, etc.).

- Activities performed with the child and an adult: reading books, telling stories, singing songs, going outside the house, playing, counting or drawing.

Additionally, we will analyse heterogeneous effects according to:

- Background characteristics of the child and his/her households.

- Type of device used by the child for screen use.

- Caregivers' costs of limiting screens use: effort involved in reducing screen time, increasing co-viewing and controlling content (adapted from Bhalotra et al. 2020).

- Caregivers' previous knowledge of recommendations and usefulness of video.

- Caregivers' usefulness and having downloaded/read the personalized digital leaflet.

- Caregivers' risk and time preferences: from the Global Preference Survey from Falk et al. (2016 and 2018).

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
This study is a randomized controlled trial. The unit of randomization are caregivers of children aged 0 to 5 in baseline. The unit of analysis is the parent child dyad. For those caregivers with more than one child in the 0-5 age range, we randomly select the oldest or youngest child for the measurement of children outcomes and parental practices.

The study includes an online baseline survey, a midline survey (6.5 weeks after baseline) and an endline survey (6 months after baseline). The intervention (video and digital leaflet) is embedded in the online baseline survey. There is one treatment arm and one active control group. The control group receives an analogous treatment on a different parenting topic.

The recruiting was done through mainly two channels. First, participants were recruited from the main university in Uruguay (Universidad de la Rep├║blica). An institutional email with an invitation to participate in the study was sent to a list of potentially eligible students and workers from the university. Second, we also recruited participants by using social media advertisements in Facebook and Instagram through a recruiting company. This allows to increase the heterogeneity of our sample in terms of educational level. Additionally, a minimal part of the recruiting was done through the recruiting company database.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done through the software used for the online baseline survey (Qualtrics).
Randomization Unit
Caregivers are the unit of randomization. For the purpose of shortening the surveys, we ask each caregiver with more than one child in the 0-5 age range to answer for only one of them, chosen at random by the survey software.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Between 1,500 and 3,000 caregivers at baseline.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Between 1,500 and 3,000 caregivers at baseline.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Between 750 and 1,500 caregivers in the treatment group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
European University Institute
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
20220704_COLOMBO AMEND 2


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

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Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials