Background

Screen-time is associated with childhood obesity. Effective parenting practices to reduce screen-time are not well understood, with a lack of validated measurement tools to assess screen related parenting practices. This study examined the psychometric properties of The Media Parenting Scale, a newly developed parent-report measure. We examined the internal consistency of the scale and examined its relation to additional parenting practices known to influence weight in children.

Methods

Parents (n=253) with preschool aged children enrolled in Head Start completed a survey packet. Existing measures of family screen-time were adapted for a low-income preschool audience to develop a 12-item scale. Parents also reported on responsive parenting (Comprehensive General Parenting Questionnaire, CGPQ) and feeding (Structure and Control in Parent Feeding, SCPF). Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was conducted and content validity was assessed.

Results

EFA of the Media Parenting Scale revealed a 1-factor, 6-item model. Internal consistency was acceptable (alpha=0.87). Higher Media Parenting scores represent more structure and limit-setting practices around screen-time theorized to protect against obesity. Media Parenting was negatively correlated with hours of screen-time (weekday r= -0.31, p<0.0001; weekend r= -0.30, p<0.0001) and positively correlated with hours spent in active play (weekday r=0.14, p=0.02; weekend r=0.14, p=0.03). Media Parenting was also positively related to the use of more structure-based feeding (r=0.41, p<0.0001) responsive parenting (r=0.19, p=0.002), and inversely associated with the use of food to soothe (r=-0.20, p=0.001).

Conclusions

The Media Parenting Scale appears to be a reliable tool to assess screen related parenting practices among preschool aged children. Future criterion-validity testing will improve the utility of this scale, and links with child weight should be explored.