Background. Executive functions are actively developing in children of preschool age. Executive functions’ development is also influenced by the way children are using digital devices. Joint media engagement is one of the parameters of digital device usage that has been poorly studied so far, although this is of great importance from the point of view of cultural-historical psychology.
Objective. Our research aimed to explore the association between young children’s development of executive functions over a year, and their joint media engagement with parents and siblings in preschool children.
Design. Four hundred ninety (490) typically developing children (52% of them were boys) participated in the study. It was a longitudinal study: during the first stage, the children were 5-6 years old; the second stage followed one year later. The NEPSY-II subtests (Inhibition, Statue, Memory for Designs, Sentences Repetition) and the Dimensional Change Card Sort were used to assess executive functions. A questionnaire for mothers was used to get information about the children’s joint media engagement and screen time.
Results. Children who watched video content and played video games together with their siblings developed more inhibitory control over the year than those children who did it alone. Co-viewing of video content with parents was associated with a decrease in cognitive flexibility over the year, as opposed to watching it alone.
Conclusion. The obtained data allows us to conclude that joint media engagement is important for executive functions development, and that there are optimal formats of joint media engagement. Based on the limitations of this study, recommendations for future research were suggested.
Keywords: preschool age/ joint media engagement/ screen time/ executive functions (EF)/ working memory/ inhibition/ cognitive flexibility/ digital devices (DD)
Background. During the lockdown for COVID-19, children were limited in a number of activities which are essential for the development of executive functions (play, social interaction, and organized sport). Earlier studies found an increase in executive function issues in children during the pandemic, based on caregivers’ reports.
Objective. The present study was a pioneer in exploring the dynamics of children’s executive function development during the lockdown. Our purpose was to explore the effect of the lockdown on the growth of executive functions in children over a one-year period, as compared to their peers before the pandemic.
Design. The sample consisted of two cohorts of children. All the children had been attending the same kindergartens but in different periods of time. The executive functions of both groups were assessed twice, with a year’s break in-between (the first group was assessed before the pandemic; the second, during the pandemic). These groups were comparable in gender composition, age, and family's place of residence.
Results. The results have confirmed concerns about the slower growth of executive functioning in children during the lockdown versus their peers before the pandemic, especially for cognitive flexibility and working memory. Inhibition was not significantly affected by the lockdown. Moderation analysis showed that the lockdown impacted girls differently than boys in terms of working memory. The negative effect of social restrictions on working memory was significantly higher in females.
Conclusion. Our findings illuminate the negative effects the pandemic-related social restrictions had on the growth of children's cognitive flexibility and working memory. For working memory, the effect of social isolation varied depending on the child’s gender.
Keywords: Working memory/ cognitive flexibility/ inhibition/ development/ lockdown/ social restrictions