Media Use and Child Development

The Missing Curricular Link in Child and Family Social Work Education


  • Samantha Bates The Ohio State University
  • Aesha John Texas Christian University



Media use, Technology, child and family social work, self-regulation, parent-child interactions


Social work practice with children and families is one of the largest specialization areas in the profession. To prepare students for this area of practice, social work programs often offer several courses focused on child, adolescent, and family well-being. Technology-related topics, however, such as the role of child and family media use on children’s developmental outcomes, are underrepresented in social work curricula, courses, and textbooks focusing on children and families. To highlight the importance of this content, our teaching note synthesizes evidence on the impact of two forms of media (television viewing and smartphone use) on children’s self-regulation and parent-child interactions. Although we focus on only two forms of media, our research synthesis links media use to emergent issues influencing child development and family functioning—content highly applicable to direct and indirect social work practice activities with children and families. We further draw upon our translational findings to advance social work education and practice by offering low- and high-effort strategies to embed this content in child and family social work courses. We conclude with implications and future directions for social work educators, practitioners, and leaders that describe opportunities to prepare students for a technology-driven future and to use technology strategically to fulfill our profession’s mission and values.


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