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IISSAAR-Singapore Team

Principal investigator of IISSAAR-Singapore & IISSAAR-international
Professor Michael Chia

Screen media engagement for school, work and play in adults and children in globalized societies is a ‘staple diet’ of daily life. Screen media engagement at an early age can be a bane or a boon to the holistic development of children. Like most things in life ‘too much of a good thing’ negates goodness and cause harm. For instance, over-eating and insufficient physical activity lead to obesity and contribute to preventable health-ailments. Likewise, an over-indulgence in screen media at an early age, without evidence-informed guidance from parents or caregivers at home could lead to the cultivation and adoption of inimical habits that may be difficult to correct when older. The IISSAAR-international research employs a Singapore-curated online questionnaire- Surveillance of digital Media hAbits in earLy chiLdhood Questionnaire (SMALLQ®) to monitor cross-sectional changes in parent-reported digital media use, on-screen and off-screen behaviours among preschool children aged 2 to 6 over three years (2020-2022) in 20 countries across the world. Collectively, in partnership with global colleagues, we envisage that the results of the study make a small difference in informing policy and practice in the holistic development of children of the future.

Assistant Professor John Komar
Co-principal investigator of IISSAAR-Singapore & IISSAAR-international

Spring 2020 is the 13th anniversary of the launch of the first smartphone that became really popular in the hands of adults and children. When television and computers represented the main media screens in 2007 and before, rapid technological developments in time led to a major diversification of hardware and the multiplication of devices with media screens- e.g. smartphones, and tablets. These screen media devices have diverse functions and uses- for work, education, and play. Preschool children now are the children of the Y generation. They are considered the first generation who are better at using computers, smart devices and other forms of screen media than their parents. Indeed they are the first generation of peoples engaged actively with screen media - anywhere, and at any time. This is not without consequence for children and their education. With IISSAAR-international, we investigate the relationship between parent and child screen media use and profile the use across continents and countries.

Co-principal investigator of IISSAAR-Singapore & IISSAAR-international
Dr Tay Lee Yong

Dr Tay Lee Yong is Teaching Fellow, Office of Education Research, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


Technology has altered the way we live and interact.  We could see changes in commerce, banking, social interaction and also education and learning.  We are living in a world with constant exposure to digital media and screen time.  In the past, there was this famous slogan by a credit card company that says, “Don’t leave home without it”.  These days, it is don’t leave home without your handphone.  More often than not, when a school-going child is on a computer or any digital mobile device, the adult would without much hesitation jump to the conclusion that the child is ‘playing’ with it; as in using it for games or for entertainment purposes.  In actual fact, the child could be learning from or with the technology.  Apart from this, there are also a number of concerns over the prolonged use of technology and screen time by school-going children and even working adults.  In recent years, more attention has been given to pre-


schoolers’ use of technology and screen time.  I am very honoured to be a member of both the IISSAAR-Singapore and IISSAAR-international.  I was also involved in the formulation of the SMALLQ® survey tool.  We hope that the IISSAAR research will yield findings that provide help formulate recommendations on how to use technology and digital screen media in more productive and healthy ways for preschool children. I have been researching on technology use in teaching and learning in the primary schools and downstream research in pre-primary school is of great interest to me. 

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Co-opted researcher of IISSAAR-Singapore.
Karen Heng

Karen Heng, Teaching Fellow, Physical Education and Sports Science, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Karen has been teaching Physical Education to Primary School children for more than 20 years. To her, education is more than the acquisition of knowledge. Every child should be developed holistically. From learning to move efficiently and being connected to nature, they should also possess social emotional competencies. Her many years of interaction with parents and children has led her to believe that young children are proficient learners and with proper guidance, good habits can be formed at an early age. Her passion in education spurred her to pursue a Master of Education (Development Psychology) to understand better the cognitive, social, emotional and moral development of the child and adolescent.

Karen is excited to be part of the IISSAAR research team because the use of technology has become pervasive in everyone’s life. How it is used to enhance learning can also adversely affect lifestyles and social behaviours. There is an increasing need to help young learners discern if screen media engagement is a positive or negative influence to learning.

Kalaivani Ramachandran
Research assistant of IISSAAR-Singapore & IISSAAR-international

Kalaivani is currently a research assistant in Office of Education Research, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University – Singapore. She has a passion for education and has experience in working with educational publishing firms as an editor and author. She also has a keen interest in both quantitative and qualitative data analysis as well as research that would have societal impact. She liaises with the IISSAAR-international collaborators to help them facilitate the smooth implementation of the study in their respective countries.


In today’s world, in which the use of digital media and technology is predominant, children tend to be exposed to digital media at an early age inevitably, sometimes as early as even a few months old. As such, being aware of and practising the recommended guidelines on digital media habits for children is extremely crucial to avoid bringing about negative or even harmful effects to children due to improper use of digital media and technology. Thus, parents, as children’s main caregivers and oftentimes, as a role model, play an utmost significant role in shaping their children’s habits of digital media use. IISSAAR-


international aims to study the patterns of use of digital media and technology as well as engagement in non-digital activities by children aged between 2 to 6 years and the extent to which their parents play a part in shaping their children’s habits of digital media use and engagement in non-digital activities in countries in Asia, Europe and elsewhere. Being someone who has always been interested in research which has societal impact, she envisions IISSAAR-international to bring about awareness among parents at an international level about the recommended guidelines on digital media habits and the importance to practice the guidelines so as to cultivate good digital media habits for their children at an early age.

Research assistant of IISSAAR-Singapore & IISSAAR-international
Terence Chua

The early years of a child are important for later developments, health and well-being. Brain development during the early years occurs at a rate more rapid than that of the later years in life. Nature and nurture play a role in how a child develops and oftentimes, both are controlled by parents or caregivers. Parents being the first teachers in their child’s development are handed the first moment of opportunity to cultivate a safe growing and learning experience for their child. Early years experiences, be it positive or negative, shape a child’s developing brain and can have lifelong effects. 

My involvement in this research includes summarizing research literature, liaising with local preschool operators and international collaborators, coordinating data collection among others. The IISSAAR-International research offers some insights into parents’ attitudes towards their child’s digital media use, the proportion of time in their child’s early experiences which they were actively engaged as well as their awareness of professional guidelines on child digital media use.

Verity Lua
Intern at IISSAAR-Singapore & IISSAAR-international

The rapid developments in technology make it difficult for people to fully understand it. Before we can finish studying the benefits and drawbacks of our current technologies, new products continue to be released into the market. But one thing seems certain – technology will continue to infiltrate more and more of our daily lives. Undoubtedly, this has caused much concern, especially for parents. So much so “parenting in the digital age” is now a somewhat common term. My hope is that through the IISSAAR, there will be a greater understanding and awareness of how one can cultivate or promote good digital media habits, and even possibly encourage a more holistic upbringing of the future generation.

Combining my passion in research and art, I bring to life the findings of the IISSAAR research through infographics. By utilizing illustrations and segmenting findings into bite-sized information, our research becomes more accessible to general public, including the everyday parent.

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Low Seow Ting
PhD student researcher with IISSAAR- Singapore

Seow Ting is currently pursuing her PhD in National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. Understanding that early childhood is predictive of multiple aspects of health and wellbeing throughout life, her hope and goal is to conduct impactful research on children’s physical activity and health, to help the next generation learn, play, and grow up healthy and happy in this digital age.


In this rapidly evolving and complex world, young children face many unprecedented challenges. As technologies rapidly develop and we prepare our children for 21st century digital citizenry, an increase in use of screen media is almost inevitable. The current generation are also spending less time outdoors as children nowadays have more reasons to stay indoors than ever. Sadly, the indoors have also become more conducive to promoting sedentary behaviours. As we – the generations who never had the same kind of immersion in screen media – wonder into the future where technology becomes the reality of our children’s life, it is important that we do our best to guide our children and provide them with opportunities to build good screen use habits as well as lifestyle habits from the early childhood years. Building a healthy life is a continuous process. But with early childhood being a particularly sensitive and important stage in life, it is crucial that we nurture and guide our children from a young age, as we build on efforts to provide our children with opportunities to have the best, healthy start in life.

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