Meta-analysis on the Use and Effects of Digital Media in ECEC


When taking a closer look at public discourse about the effects of digital media on child development we encounter a debate that is frequently based on singular research results – sometimes holding for an entirely different age group – or on highly selective reports by critics or advocates of digitalization ardently arguing their position. Only rarely does this discussion reflect upon the reliability of the selected empirical data or the methodological background and the fidelity of the relevant research. Moreover, there is no extensive systematic literature search based on standardized criteria for assessing the quality of research findings on this topic so far.

The fact that research results are included in the debate reveals the political need to establish an empirically-based pedagogical practice (Pant, 2014). Evidence-based political action in the educational sector requires empirical knowledge about the effectiveness of educational processes (Bromme, Prenzel & Jäger, 2014). In this case, a meta-analysis can help politicians and practitioners to make data-driven decisions about the use of digital media in early childhood education and care and inform about its impact on children’s learning. Several efforts have been made to establish evidence-based practice in education settings. The European Union and the Departments of Education in the US and the Netherlands (e.g. What Works Clearinghouse, 2013; Fukkink, Jilink & Oostdam, 2015), for instance, also commissioned meta-analyses on political issues regarding efficient pedagogical practice in ECEC.


The project term is from January 2019 to October 2021. The goal of our meta-analysis is to (1) find all existing studies (with primary data) by adopting adequate search strategies, to (2) systematically collect positive and negative evidence based on pre-defined categories and to (3) aggregate the evidence such that implications for educational practice in ECEC can be phrased regarding the use and effects of digital media.

Research Questions

a. How does learning with digital media (i.e. apps, tablets, computers) in ECEC settings affect children’s development between ages 0 and 6?

b. Which implications for using digital media in ECEC can be drawn from the empirical evidence?


a. Literature search

A systematic literature search will be conducted on English-language and German-language electronic databases (e.g. ERIC, PSYCINFO, PROQUEST, MEDLINE, FIS Bildung). Additionally, scientific journals, conference programmes, bibliographies of relevant studies and internet search engines will be searched manually. We search for journal articles, conference presentations (slides), unpublished research reports as well as doctoral theses.

b. Inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis

  • We include intervention studies with control-group design that analyse effects of the use of digital media in ECEC settings.
  • These (quasi-)experimental studies must have a minimum of 10 participants per condition (experimental group and control group each).
  • Digital media (e.g. apps, tablets, computers) must be used in ECEC settings to foster children’s learning.
  • We focus on children before formal schooling in first grade (from birth to approx. six years of age). We exclude studies that evaluated or implemented digital media in primary school settings or in experimental conditions at a laboratory.
  • Studies should be published in German or English.

c. Coding

The systematic literature search, quality rating of the studies and content coding will be performed by two independent reviewers. A three-step process with (a) title and abstract screening, (b) the rating of study’s quality and (c) content analysis of learning support by digital media will be used.


Preliminary findings were presented at the conference “IFP Fachkongress 2020”.  Available at:

Call for Papers

We are searching for national and international intervention studies exploring the effects of the use of digital media in ECEC settings on learning and development. We would like to kindly ask you to send us reports, presentations or short descriptions of current research on this topic. Please email to:

Researchers at IFP:

Dr. Anne-Kristin Cordes (

Fabienne Hartig (

Principal investigator at Catholic University of Applied Science (KSH Munich):

Prof. Dr. Franziska Egert (

Staatsinstitut für Frühpädagogik

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