Kids’ recreational screen time makes very little difference, new study says
of leave the children alone department
When I became a parent almost seven years ago, I took it upon myself to read what to expect and how to be a good parent. Among many more important things, an important reading point that led to much discussion in our household was screen time for children. And, as you might expect, that conversation is an ongoing one to this day. There are many theories about how long children should spend in front of a screen at certain ages, but the unifying force behind these theories is generally that they should be relatively small. Some countries have even gotten into the game of imposing screen time limits on children, or at least many have gone this route for targeted types of screen time, such as video games.
But what if I told you that all of this parenting worries, all the reading on the subject, and all the efforts made by governments are for naught? Well, that seems to be the main finding of a new study that concludes that the impact of recreational screen time on children is statistically negligible.
Even when kids spend five hours a day on the screen – whether it’s computers, TV, or texting – it doesn’t appear to be harmful. This is what my colleagues and I discovered at the University of Colorado at Boulder after analyzing data collected from nearly 12,000 participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study – the largest long-term study of this study. type never performed in the United States.
Participants included children aged 9-10, from various backgrounds, income levels and ethnicities. We investigated how screen time relates to some of the most critical aspects of their lives: sleep, mental health, behavior, and friendships.
Now there is a ton caveats to all of this. Most importantly, this is a correlative study, not causality research. It is also a narrow age group under study, although the study has an impressive sample size. And there was also the two positive and negative correlations discovered.
For example, increased screen time in the sample group was correlated with stronger interpersonal relationships with peers. It would be the opposite of the old parenting dogma that suggests staring at a screen means you won’t have friends. On the other hand, the increase in screen time at the end of the spectrum made correlate with decreased sleep and school performance. What does that mean? Screen time is good? Screen time is bad?
Perhaps neither: When we examine the strength of the correlations, we only see very modest associations. That is, any association between screen time and various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small that it is unlikely to be clinically significant.
Some children scored lower than others on these results, some scored higher; screen time only explained 2% of the difference in scores. This suggests that the differences can be explained by many variables, and not just screen time. It’s a very small piece of a much bigger picture.
Which should above all tell us what we already know: Outcomes in children are nuanced and complicated, involving many factors, and each child’s needs are different. What is not True, based on this study, is that parents should be given general recommendations on how much screen time their children should be allowed to have.
And, because, again, these are correlative studies, even the correlation found does not equate to screen time as the root cause.
For example, we found that teens who spend more time in front of screens may show more symptoms of aggression. But we can’t say that screen time causes the symptoms; instead, perhaps the more aggressive children are given screens in an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior.
There are so many croque-mittens put in place for parents to jump on these days. At the very least, it’s probably time to get some reasonable spectra of screen time for kids off the list.
Thanks for reading this Techdirt post. With so much competing for attention these days, we really appreciate your giving us your time. We work hard every day to bring quality content to our community.
Techdirt is one of the few media that is still truly independent. We don’t have a giant company behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, at a time when advertisers are less and less interested in sponsoring small independent sites – especially a site like ours that does not want to put his finger on his reports. and analysis.
While other websites have resorted to pay walls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying / intrusive advertising, we’ve always kept Techdirt open and accessible to everyone. But to continue this way, we need your support. We offer our readers a variety of ways to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool products – and every little bit counts. Thank you.
– The Techdirt team
Filed Under: kids, screen time, studies