Comparing Parent Report and Telemetry Measures of Child Media Use

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Christensen, C., Silander, M., Grindal, T., Adair, A., Garcia, E., Vahey, P., & Hupert, N. (2020). Comparing parent report and telemetry measures of child media use. In Kalir, J. H., & Filipiak, D. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2020 Connected Learning Summit (pp. 29–35). ETC Press.


Accurate measurement of children’s media use is critical for understanding media effects on child outcomes. Researchers commonly rely on parent-reported media use despite well-known methodological drawbacks (e.g., Robinson et al., 2006). An alternative method that may be more accurate is tracking usage via data drawn from tracking software. However, telemetry-tracked data do not capture rich qualitative information on how users engage with media. This study compares these 2 approaches for measuring usage of a mediabased
intervention. Data were drawn from a study of an 8-week digital media intervention for 4- and 5-yearold children from low-income families in 5 U.S. states (N = 216). As part of the intervention, participants were given a tablet computer with educational game and video apps installed. Parents reported children’s usage of the intervention materials via a weekly online survey. Researchers collected telemetry data from tracking software installed on tablets. Parent-reported and telemetry-tracked information on use of intervention materials were
moderately correlated (r = 0.35). On average, parents reported that children used the intervention digital media materials more often than the telemetry data indicated. This pattern was consistent across each of the 7 weeks during which we collected these data. Findings suggest that parent report is not a reliable substitute for telemetry data when measuring time spent with media. However, telemetry data cannot describe child affective engagement with the media and the social context within which children use media. Researchers must therefore be mindful in selecting measures to accurately describe distinct dimensions of media usage.

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