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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

David Arnold

Subject Categories

Child Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Early Childhood Education


The rapidly increasing popularity of touch screen mobile devices, and accompanying educational applications (“apps”) targeted towards preschool children, calls for a new look at parent-child interactions around educational media. Research has shown that parental involvement in children’s educational media exposure can improve engagement and learning outcomes. However, to date little information is available on how parents navigate their children’s use of educational mobile technology, or how similar or different these interactions are to more commonly studied parent-child interactions, such as around shared reading. This study described, using observational data, parent-child interactions around educational apps and mobile devices in a sample of 36 families with preschool-aged children. The study further examined how the quality of parental behaviors (e.g., warmth, playfulness, parent engagement, and autonomy support) related to child engagement and affect during the interaction, and to children’s educational achievement, and explored how parent-child interactions around educational apps compare to those around shared reading and joint play with a math toy. Higher quality parenting behaviors were related to higher child engagement and less negative affect during the app interactions, and to child engagement and positive affect during the shared reading and math toy interactions. High quality parenting behaviors in the shared reading and math toy tasks, but not the app tasks, were additionally related to child math and preliteracy scores. Parents’ and children’s roles during the app interactions differed from shared reading and math toy play tasks, particularly in that children took more of a lead role in the app interactions. This study represents a first step towards updating existing knowledge about parent-child interactions around home learning materials to include issues relevant to the new mobile age.