Joint media engagement between parents and preschoolers in the U.S., China, and Taiwan

Kate Yen, Yeqi Chen, Yi Cheng, Sijin Chen, Ying Yu Chen, Yiran Ni, Alexis Hiniker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Global app marketplaces make families in foreign countries easily accessible to developers, but most scholarship on joint media engagement (JME) between parents and children reports on data from participants in Western contexts. We conducted an observational lab study to examine how preschoolers (age 3-5) and parents (N=74) from three different regions of the world (communities in China, Taiwan, and the United States) engage with two types of tablet games: An instructional game with goals and an exploratory, open-ended game. We found systematic differences among groups and between games. For example, parents from China and Taiwan frequently picked up their child’s hand and used it as a tool to engage with the screen, a practice parents in our U.S. sample did not employ. Dyads from all three samples exhibited more warmth when playing an instructional game than an exploratory one. Our results suggest that characteristics of the populations we sampled interact with design features, that is, the same design prompted opposing behaviors in different groups. We conclude that it may be useful to examine goal-free and goal-oriented JME as separate constructs, that design choices influence the roles parents adopt during JME, and that the range of behaviors we observed complicate the prevailing research narrative of what positive and productive JME looks like.1

Original languageEnglish
Article number192
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Child-computer interaction
  • Game design
  • Joint media engagement
  • Mobile computing
  • Preschool


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