Zaman, B., & Mifsud, C. L. (2017). Editorial: Young children’s use of digital media and parental mediation. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 11(3). doi:

Editorial: Young children’s use of digital media and parental mediation

Bieke Zaman1 & Charles L. Mifsud2

1 Mintlab, KU Leuven – imec, Leuven, Belgium
2 Centre for Literacy, University of Malta, Msida, Malta


Growing numbers of young children use a variety of media devices and applications at home (Jones & Park, 2015), and at an increasingly younger age. Parents report that their children are using digital technologies even at the age of one (Mifsud & Petrova, 2017). Mobile devices have become especially popular among children aged 0 to 8, with a large number of families with young children having smartphones and tablets in the home, although this has not automatically led to an increase in digital media use (Common Sense Inc., 2017), and does not tell anything about the range of factors influencing how the technologies are appropriated in the family setting (Plowman, Stevenson, Stephen, & McPake, 2012).

In this special issue, we present a holistic perspective on young children’s digital media use by accounting for the various factors that shape their online experiences at home. We aim to arrive at a better understanding of how the digital media landscape offers both opportunities and challenges for young children. Previous research (e.g., Marsh, Hannon, Lewis, & Ritchie, 2017; Plowman et al., 2012) has shown that ‘digital literacy’ is established early on in young children (0-8) and they learn with technology at home. Plowman et al. (2012, p. 36) concluded that the ways in which “children, families and technology interact in the home [ children towards an] understanding of the world, learning dispositions and the role of technology in everyday life”. This in turn has brought about increased concern that “young children’s lack of technical, critical and social skills may pose a risk” (Livingstone, Görzig, & Ólafsson, 2011, p. 3). Parents play an important role in shaping young children’s digital media experiences (Marsh et al., 2017). In order to gain a deeper understanding of the difficulties faced by parents to balance their role of mitigating and preventing the negative effects of children’s digital media use on the one hand, with that of providing them with the opportunities offered by digital media on the other, an extensive accumulation of knowledge on all aspects of parental mediation is required.

Three decades of research on parental mediation have repeatedly shown that active mediation, restrictive mediation, co-use and monitoring are common styles by which parents in Western cultures mediate the media use of children across a wide age spectrum (Gentile, Nathanson, Rasmussen, Reimer, & Walsh, 2012; Mendoza, 2009; Nikken & Jansz, 2014; Padilla-Walker, Coyne, Fraser, Dyer, & Yorgason, 2012; Valkenburg, Krcmar, Peeters, & Marseille, 1999; Warren, 2001). The research field concerned with young children’s media use and the role of parental mediation is challenged to stay current with technological evolutions (Troseth, Russo, & Strouse, 2016), and to consider a wide variety of ‘screen’ media other than television (see e.g., Brito, Francisco, Dias, & Chaudron, 2017; Goh, Bay, & Chen, 2015; Lauricella, Wartella, & Rideout, 2015). Rather than the traditional situation of one television per family accessible at a fixed location at home with limited interactivity and predefined content, we are now increasingly witnessing a situation in which a family has access to several media devices (often per family member) that allow for individualized mobile use, online connectedness and interactivity (see e.g., Eastin, Greenberg, & Hofschire, 2006; Fisch, 2017). A situation which presents us with a broad mix of media related scenarios, with significant differences in both media quantity and quality, as well as in the way media use is shaped by the characteristics of the family context.

Therefore, the body of knowledge on parental mediation would benefit from empirical insights accounting for this heterogeneity in family compositions, media environments, and in the light of contemporary media evolutions. It would allow us to discover whether and how new or adapted parental mediation practices have emerged. It is therefore important that the research focus is not only on the intentional and behavioural aspects, but also on the underlying parental attitudes and motives, their ‘ethnotheories’ or cultural beliefs (Plowman, McPake, & Stephen, 2010), their unconscious or unintended behaviours (see e.g., Bandura, 1977; Kammerl & Kramer, 2016; Vaala & Bleakley, 2015), and the situational factors shaping the dynamics of parental mediation practices (Zaman, Nouwen, Vanattenhoven, Ferrerre, & Looy, 2016). Such an holistic stance helps to arrive at an in-depth understanding of why certain parental mediation practices (co-)exist (Stattin & Kerr, 2000), why oftentimes they appear paradoxical (Zaman et al., 2016), and how the social interactions between the child media user and family members may go in both directions (Livingstone et al., 2017; Nelissen & Van den Bulck, 2018).

In this special issue, we address these challenges and aim to contribute to the body of research on young children’s digital media use based on a selection of studies covering a variety of methodologies, including quantitative and qualitative empirical research as well as a systematic literature review.

Special Issue

The special issue invited contributions that build on our understanding of children’s contemporary practices with digital media, studied from quantitative, qualitative and mixed approaches. The special issue originated in cooperation with the COST ACTION IS1410 ‘The digital literacy and multimodal practices of young children” (DigiLitEY) and the ECREA TWG group on Children, Youth and Media, and was launched in November 2016.

We received 38 abstracts of which 11 were selected by Natalia Kucirkova (University College London, UK), Charles Mifsud (University of Malta, Malta), Cristina Ponte (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal) and Bieke Zaman (KU Leuven, Belgium) to go to the next phase. Then, the review process of full manuscripts was double blind. Each full manuscript was reviewed by two respected scholars in the field of children, youth and media, and shepherded by at least one special issue editor. A total of six papers were selected to be considered for publication in this issue. In the final publication phase, these six papers were further reviewed by Bieke Zaman and Charles Mifsud as special issue editors and by Lenka Dedkova, David Smahel and Kristian Daneback as main journal editors.

The final list of papers mainly revolves around the theme of parental mediation of children’s use of digital media, with a focus on families with young children. Five of the papers deal with research questions that have not been extensively addressed in previous research, including amongst others an empirical investigation of the role of the parents’ own media use (Nikken, this issue), toddlers’ use of digital media platforms like YouTube (Elias & Sulkin, 2017 - this issue), and the situational factors shaping parental mediation dynamics (van Kruistum & van Steensel, 2017 - this issue; Smahelova, Juhová, Cermak, & Smahel, 2017 - this issue; Daneels & Vanwynsberghe, 2017 - this issue). The last paper in our special issue presents a literature review of 60 research studies published between 2011 and 2015 and sheds light on the landscape of young children and digital media research. It shows that the findings from our special issue converge with the recent body of research on digital technologies featuring children’s interaction with social partners (Miller, Paciga, Danby, Beaudoin-Ryan, & Kaldor, 2017 - this issue).

When we garner the insights offered by our special issue, we can identify four main findings that might contribute to the further maturation of parental mediation theory, and an in-depth, actualized understanding of children’s digital media use.

Firstly, the empirical evidence provided in this special issue shines a light on the heterogeneity of families with children, the relation to parental mediation styles, and its consequences for children’s media use. For instance, it points to the variety of family types based on the time spent by parents and children on different media (Elias & Sulkin; Nikken), and discusses examples of different family portraits based on the diversity of values and emotions shaping parental mediation practices (van Kruistum & van Steensel). When considering that this heterogeneity is already present in relatively homogeneous populations, it is imperative that future research encompasses a wider variety of sample characteristics, including the involvement of families with low socioeconomic backgrounds and with diverse needs (Miller et al.).

Secondly, it is shown that the social interactions revolving around children’s media use go in both directions. The parental mediation of digital media is a dynamic process that is co-constructed by the parents and the children in the context of the actual situation (see e.g., Smahelova et al.). Moreover, not only do parents guide children’s media use, but children are also shaping parents’ media use (see e.g., Nikken). This special issue further illustrates how children’s media use is shaped by parents’ intentional, conscious as well as unintended and unconscious actions, with parents acting as role models (Nikken; Elias & Sulkin; Smahelova et al.), who are driven by tacit knowledge, values and emotions (van Kruistum & van Steensel), and who shape the conditions for children based on their own media literacy competencies (Daneels & Vanwynsberghe) as well as their own perceptions of the risks and opportunities that digital media may have for their child (Elias & Sulkin; Smahelova et al.).

Thirdly, we discuss how the changes in the media landscape affect children’s leisure time as early as the first year of life (Elias & Sulkin). This discussion addresses the need for empirical research on contemporary technologies used by children and youth, such as YouTube use by toddlers (Elias & Sulkin) and social media by adolescents (Daneels & Vanwynsberghe). Given the lack of studies on babies and toddlers in the existing body of research (Miller et al.), even more empirical evidence is needed on how very young children use digital technology and the role played by their parents.

Finally, the studies in this special issue further illuminate how parental mediation is situational, dynamic and often paradoxical in nature. Digital media use in families does not happen in a social vacuum (Miller et al.), but it forms part of daily routines (Elias & Sulkin), and depends on time and place demands (Smahelova et al.).

As guest editors of this special issue, we would like to thank the authors who submitted their valuable work and the reviewers for their careful feedback on earlier versions of the papers. We are also very grateful to Natalia Kucirkova and Cristina Ponte for their involvement in the first phase of the publication process when reviewing the abstracts and the first versions of some of the papers. Finally, we would like to thank the main journal editors of Cyberpsychology for their collaboration during the publication process and their conscientious reviews of the final papers.

In conclusion, this special issue presents new insights into the social interactions surrounding children’s digital media use. It is our hope that these insights will feed the further maturation of parental mediation theory in the light of recent technological developments and that it will inspire present and future researchers to pursue further empirical research on and with young children and their digital media use.


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Brito, R., Francisco, R., Dias, P., & Chaudron, S. (2017). Family dynamics in digital homes: The role played by parental mediation in young children’s digital practices around 14 European countries. Contemporary Family Therapy, 39, 271–280.

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Daneels, R., & Vanwynsberghe, H. (2017). Mediating social media use: Connecting parents’ mediation strategies and social media literacy. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 11(3), article 5.

Eastin, M. S., Greenberg, B. S., & Hofschire, L. (2006). Parenting the Internet. Journal of Communication, 56, 486–504.

Ellias, N., & Sulkin, I. (2017). YouTube viewers in diapers: An exploration of factors associated with amount of toddlers’ online viewing. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 11(3), article 2.

Fisch, S. M. (2017). Parental mediation in an evolving media landscape—Commonalities, contrasts, and implications for design: Commentary on chapter 13. In R. Barr & D. N. Linebarger (Eds.), Media exposure during infancy and early childhood (pp. 221–226). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

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Miller, J. L., Paciga, K. A., Danby, S., Beaudoin-Ryan, L., & Kaldor, T. (2017). Looking beyond swiping and tapping: Review of design and methodologies for researching young children’s use of digital technologies. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 11(3), article 6.

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Smahelova, M., Juhová, D., Cermak, I., & Smahel, D. (2017). Mediation of young children’s digital technology use: The parents’ perspective. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 11(3), article 4.

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Vaala, S. E., & Bleakley, A. (2015). Monitoring, mediating, and modeling: Parental influence on adolescent computer and internet use in the United States. Journal of Children and Media, 9, 40–57.

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van Kruistum, C., & van Steensel, R. (2017). The tacit dimension of parental mediation. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 11(3), article 3.

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Zaman, B., Nouwen, M., Vanattenhoven, J., Ferrerre, E. de, & Looy, J. V. (2016). A qualitative inquiry into the contextualized parental mediation practices of young children’s digital media use at home. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 60, 1–22.

Issue Content


Editorial: Young children’s use of digital media and parental mediation
Bieke Zaman and Charles Mifsud


Article 1:
Implications of low or high media use among parents for young children’s media use
Peter Nikken

Article 2:
YouTube viewers in diapers: An exploration of factors associated with amount of toddlers’ online viewing Nelly Elias and Idit Sulkin

Article 3:
The tacit dimension of parental mediation
Claudia van Kruistum & Roel van Steensel

Article 4:
Mediation of young children’s digital technology use: The parents’ perspective
Martina Smahelova, Dana Juhová, Ivo Cermak and David Smahel

Article 5:
Mediating social media use: Connecting parents’ mediation strategies and social media literacy
Rowan Daneels and Hadewijch Vanwynsberghe

Article 6:
Looking beyond swiping and tapping: Review of design and methodologies for researching young children’s use of digital technologies
Jennifer L. Miller, Kathleen A. Paciga, Susan Danby, Leanne Beaudoin-Ryan and Tamara Kaldor

About the Journal

The Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace is a web-based, peer-reviewed scholarly journal. The first peer-reviewed issue was published in September 2007. The journal is focused on social science research about cyberspace. It brings psychosocial reflections of the impact of the Internet on people and society. The journal is interdisciplinary, publishing works written by scholars of psychology, media studies, communication science, sociology, political science, nursing, ICT security, organizational psychology and also other disciplines with relevance to psychosocial aspects of cyberspace. The journal accepts original research articles, as well as theoretical studies and research meta-analyses. Proposals for special issues are also welcomed.

The journal is indexed with Web of Science (ESCI), SCOPUS, ERIH PLUS, EBSCO Academic Search Complete, the Directory of Open Access Journals and the Czech Database of Scientific Journals.

The articles in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace are open access articles licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.


Prof. David Smahel, M.Sc. et Ph.D., Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
E-mail: smahel(at)

Associate Editor

Prof. Kristian Daneback, Ph.D., University of Gothenburg, Sweden
E-mail: kristian.daneback(at)

Managing Editor

Lenka Dedkova, Ph.D., Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
E-mail: ldedkova(at)

Guest Editors of Special Issue
Young Children’s Use of Digital Media and Parental Mediation

Assist. Prof. Bieke Zaman, Ph.D., Mintlab, KU Leuven – imec, Leuven, Belgium
Email: bieke.zaman(at)

Prof. Charles L. Mifsud, Ph.D., Centre for Literacy, University of Malta, Msida, Malta
Email: charles.l.mifsud(at)

Editorial Board

Prof. Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Ph.D., California State University, Los Angeles, USA
Prof. Herbert Hrachovec, Ph.D., University of Vienna, Austria
Prof. Dr. Micheline Frenette, Universite de Montreal, Canada
Prof. Alexander E. Voiskounsky, Ph.D., Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia
Prof. Michael W. Ross, Ph.D., DrMedSc, MPH, MPHEd, University of Texas, Houston, USA
Prof. Petr Macek, CSc., Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Prof. Olle Findahl, World Internet Institute, Sweden
Prof. Jochen Peter, Ph.D., University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Prof. Veronika Kalmus, Ph.D., University of Tartu, Estonia
Prof. Joshua Fogel, Ph.D., Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, USA
Prof. Gustavo S. Mesch, Ph.D., University of Haifa, Israel
Prof. Lelia Green, Ph.D., Edith Cowan University, Australia
Prof. Michel Walrave, Ph.D., University of Antwerp, Belgium
Michelle Wright, Ph.D., Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Václav Štětka, Ph.D., Charles University, Czech Republic
Andra Siibak, Ph.D., University of Tartu, Estonia
Adjunct Prof. Birgit U. Stetina, Ph.D., University of Vienna, Austria
Anna Sevcikova, Ph.D., Masaryk University, Czech Republic

Advisory Board

Prof. Bente Traen, Ph.D., University of Oslo, Norway
Prof. Charles Ess, Ph.D., University of Oslo, Norway
Prof. Dr. Ilse Kryspin-Exner, University of Vienna, Austria
Prof. PhDr. Jan Jirák, Ph.D., Charles University, Czech Republic
Prof. Vasja Vehovar, Ph.D., University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Prof. Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., California State University, USA
Prof. Patricia M. Greenfield, Ph.D., University of California, USA
Prof. Peter K Smith, University of London, England
Prof. Nicola Döring, Ilmenau University of Technology, Germany
Prof. Kimberly Young, Ph.D., St. Bonaventure University, USA
Prof. Jos de Haan, Ph.D., Erasmus University, Netherlands
Prof. Zbyněk Vybíral, Ph.D, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Prof. Monica Whitty, Ph.D., University of Leicester, UK
Prof. Alistair Duff, Ph.D., Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland
Assoc. Prof. Alfred Choi, Ph.D., Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Prof. Thurasamy Ramayah, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
Assoc. Prof. Neil Coulson, Ph.D., The University of Nottingham, UK
Assoc. Prof. Kenneth C. C. Yang, Ph.D., University of Texas at El Paso, USA
Assoc. Prof. Sun Sun Lim, Ph.D., National University of Singapore, Singapore
Prof. Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University, USA
Assoc. Prof. Jana Horáková, Ph.D., Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Assoc. Prof. Radim Polčák, Ph.D., Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Assoc. Prof. Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Ph.D., University of Tartu, Estonia
Assist. Prof. Alexander Schouten, Ph.D., Tilburg University, Netherlands
Assist. Prof. Ewa S. Callahan, Ph.D., Quinnipiac University, USA
Assist. Prof. Regina van den Eijnden, Ph.D., Utrecht University, Netherlands
Assist. Prof. Veysel Demirer, Ph.D., Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi, Turkey
PhDr. Ing. Petr Soukup, Charles University, Czech Republic
Janis Wolak, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire, USA
Francesca Romana Seganti, Ph.D., Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Jeff Gavin, Ph.D., University of Bath, UK
Hana Macháčková, Ph.D., Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Michael Fenichel, Ph.D., New York, USA
Leslie Haddon, Ph.D., London School of Economics, UK


Masaryk University, Faculty of Social Studies
Jostova 10, 60200 Brno
Czech Republic

Publication Schedule

Four issues per year: two regular issues (in July and December) plus two special issues (between regular issues).


The listed references are provided by Cited-by (Crossref service) and thus do not represent the full list of sources citing the article.

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Stijn Van Petegem, Evelien de Ferrerre, Bart Soenens, Antonius J. van Rooij, Jan Van Looy
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