School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Margaret Gopaul


Digital Devices, Technology Use, Problematic Technology Use, Emotional Dysregulation, Excessive Screen Time, Phenomenon




Digital devices have become more extensively used and have created a dramatic shift in how children, adolescents, and families use this technology. Excessive screen time has been associated with increased behavioral health problems, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, and decreased family functioning. The relationship between problematic technology use and emotional dysregulation in young children is just emerging, therefore leaving a gap in research literature. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of parents and professionals with technology and emotional dysregulation in children ages 3-5-years-old and to identify emotional characteristics specific to technology and emotional dysregulation. It further explored the lived experiences of parents and professionals of children ages 3-5-years-old to identify themes from semi-structured interviews. Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software, NVivo 12, was used to conduct a thematic analysis which revealed five valuable domains from the semi-structured interviews with parents and professionals. The domains included, ‘responses are different and emotionally intense;’ ‘a subset group of children reported showing extreme reactions;’ ‘professionals have concerns;’, ‘there is a need for parental guidelines;’ and ‘there is a lack of tolerance in young children to any uncomfortable feelings or emotions.’ These findings revealed valuable information on emotional characteristics related to this phenomenon which will bring much-needed awareness to parents, professionals, and the community. Specifically, these findings will help to better inform and prepare professionals to provide competent care to children who may be predisposed to problematic digital device use and/or adverse outcomes.

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