May 25, 2024

The intrusion of digital media into the lives of children is causing concern for parents about how best to guide use of this omnipresent technology. Over the last 10 years, digital media has evolved rapidly. In 2011, 10% of children aged younger than 2 years used mobile devices, a number that grew to 38% in 2013. By 2015, 97% of low-income children aged younger than 4 years used these devices, with 75% owning their own device. This rapid increase in children’s use of digital media is causing great concern for parents who question how best to guide their children in the use of this omnipresent technology.

To be able to bridge these conversations, we organized a digital experience discuss with parents and other digital specialists to discuss issues with parents and children because we believe that it is important to talk about positive and negative effects of digital media on the developing child, most especially now that we are faced with COVID-19 which has led to a number of effects including imposed isolation as a result of lockdown which predisposes young people and families to mental health issues.


The Positive Parenting Program (PPP) is a children’s prevention and early intervention mental health program. The Positive Parenting Program works with parents of young children throughout Uganda to prevent behavioral and emotional concerns in their children, using Triple P, and evidence-based parenting curriculum that uses simple, practical, and powerful strategies to strengthen families.

Through the Positive Parenting Program (PPP), we support parents and guardians to introduce their children to creative content to entertain and provide a much-needed escape into the fun and magical worlds of imagination. The couch conversations provide resources and ideas to support parents and stakeholders that will engage children in understanding the coronavirus, the challenges it brings to their communities and what can be done to protect them.

The session was conducted on Sunday 25th July 2021 at 3:00PM during the Couch Community Conversations. The Conversation features experts (Joshua Thembo and Gloria Kayanga) and Positive Parenting educators with a special need to understand how digital devices have evolved to become portable, attractive, readily accessible, interactive, and ubiquitous.


The reality is that the internet is a way of life today. Digital media is a highly polarized topic in our society today more than ever and evolving with all sorts of lifestyle innovations. Most parents want their children to be familiar with technology and media literate to be prepared for the future.

I think digital media is a worthwhile tool for young people to be able to enhance their skills themselves [using a smart device] but balanced with activities like outdoor play to develop imagination and creativity

Joshua Thembo | SRHR and Advocacy Expert

Although digital and social media have evidence-based benefits, including early learning, exposure to new ideas and knowledge, and increased opportunities for social contact and support, unsupervised and unchecked use of digital devices can have negative consequences for the physical and mental health of children in their formative years.


Digital media has added a layer of complexity to parenting: parents are managing multiple media environments for themselves and their children amidst relentless connectivity.  Most parents think that they are questionable media role models. Whist some feel guilty about this (“There’s been more than one occasion when my daughter has asked me to put my phone away which isn’t great”)

Children see us parents on different devices in a range of scenarios, so inevitably parents become digital role models to their children. My own challenges as a mother to a young child made me consider how the pervasive nature and technological capabilities of digital media might be impacting parents and their children. There are apps that provide well-designed content that has been shown to improve developmental outcomes.


The speakers explored both sides of the media puzzle: the positive impact on learning and exploration as well as the potential negatives of cyberbullying and digital media addiction among children and young people. To this last point, the speakers emphasized and cautioned parents to be aware of inappropriate content/design of many digital media. In particular, the concept called “persuasive design” in which technology is designed to interact and manipulate human psychology. Such design offers social rewards, token rewards, and variable reinforcement that take advantage of subconscious biases to grab one’s attention and rouse emotions. Therefore, it is important that stakeholders and partners in child protection try to meet parents and guardians where they are and understand their motivations for using media and how it fits into their day.


Digital media should work for you & work within your family values & parenting style. When used thoughtfully & appropriately, digital media can enhance daily life. But when used inappropriately or without thought, media can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family-time, outdoor-play, exercise, unplugged downtime & sleep.

Widespread use of digital devices has been accompanied by associated rise in the prevalence of physical and mental health issues in children.

Using digital media as a parenting tool to entertain, distract or comfort children can contribute to “disenfranchised” parenting. This occurs when parents increasingly rely on digital media as a de facto co-parent.

The more educated the parents, the more they use digital media as they are likely to have more personal and professional experience with digital media


  • Development and implementation of individual family media use plans for children of all ages. This model of media acceptance provides a platform where both parents and
  • Support parents to recognize what their children might be learning and why they might be choosing to connect and create using digital media.
  • The point isn’t for us to tell parents what counts as ‘quality’ for their child(ren), but to encourage and empower them to move past a knee-jerk reaction and make an informed opinion.


Experts do not ‘all agree’ that digital media are always harmful and need to be restricted, or that allowing children screen time makes someone a ‘bad parent. If digital media is taking parents away from their children and affecting parent-child interactions, parents have a responsibility to their children to be good media role models. The adage “do what I say, not what I do” is pertinent in this context. Children will imitate parents’ behavior, despite obeying (or disobeying) their instructions.

This conversation and report do not recommend that parents should never be on their devices in front of their children. Instead, balancing their own needs with those of their children can help parents model “good” media behavior.  Parent co-viewing can be helpful in this regard. However, giving your child just 10 minutes of uninterrupted (by devices) and undivided attention communicates just how important they are.

Authored: Charles Emma O

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