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OBJECTIVE: Accurate measurement of adult and child screen media use are needed to robustly assess its impact on health outcomes. Our objective was to systematically review screen media use measurement tools that have been validated against an objective "gold standard" tool.

METHODS: The search strategy was initially conducted in Medline Ovid and translated to Embase, Web of Science, PsychInfo and Cochrane. A modified natural language search was conducted in Google Scholar and IEEE. The initial search was conducted in March 2021, and an updated search was conducted in June 2022. Additional studies were included from the references. Studies had to describe the validation of a tool to measure screen media use on participants of any age against a 'gold standard' or comparable objective measure. The COnsensus-based Standards for the selection of health Measurement INstruments (COSMIN) was used to assess the criterion validity. Four authors reviewed the titles in two rounds and extracted data.

RESULTS: Twenty-nine articles were included in the review. Studies measured TV, computer, mobile device and social media site screen media use through: self or parent report, direct or video observation, computer and mobile device use tracking programs, and through other novel devices such as wearable devices and cameras. Correlations of self or parent report of screen media with the gold standard were lower than correlations of technology-based measures, and video observation with the gold standard. The COSMIN criterion validity ratings ranged from poor to excellent; most of the studies received a global score of fair or poor.

CONCLUSIONS: Technology based validated tools that more directly measure screen use are emerging that have been validated against a gold standard for measuring screen use. However, practical, objective measures of diverse types of screen media use that have been tested on diverse populations are needed to better understand the impact of screen media use on the development and physical and mental health of children and adults.


Child, Humans, Computers, Handheld, Reference Standards

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author mss

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