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Screen Time Has No Negative Impact on Early Childhood Development
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New Research: Screen Time Has No Negative Impact on Early Childhood Development
Fresh research indicates that screen time appears to have no overwhelmingly negative effects on the development of preschool children, contrary to the concerns of many parents.
This study, which focused on children from underserved and minority backgrounds, found that the time spent using television, smartphones, and tablets was not directly linked to advancements in their language, literacy, and math skills.
Children with significantly high screen usage—especially at night—did indeed show slightly slower progress in certain social and behavioral skills, but this was not the case for the majority of children.
Rebecca Dore, the lead author of the study and research director at Ohio State University’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, stated, “There’s a lot of concern in society about the supposed negative effects of screen time on young children, and it has scared parents. The results suggest we should stop demonizing the use of screen media and instead find more positive ways to support the education and development of families, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
The study was recently published in the journal “Psychological Science in the Public Interest.”
Dore emphasized the significance of this issue for low-income and minority families in the study, as research indicated that their children spent roughly double the amount of time on screen media compared to their white and higher-income peers. “Low-income and minority families often face many barriers that make limiting screen time more difficult. These findings can offer reassurance to parents that it’s not a one-size-fits-all overwhelmingly negative impact.”
The study employed data collected in the 2018-19 period as part of a larger research initiative assessing the effects of a 15-month kindergarten transition intervention for low-income families in the Columbus area. The study involved 179 children expected to enter kindergarten the following year.
Trained research assistants helped families maintain 24-hour time diaries, meticulously documenting children’s media usage, including start and end times, content viewed, and devices used.
Children’s language, literacy, math skills, as well as social and behavioral abilities, were assessed twice during their preschool year, in fall and spring, to gauge their developmental progress.
Participating children had an average daily screen time of nearly two hours, with 46% of it being nighttime usage (from 6 pm to 6 am). The results indicated that screen time did not have a significant impact on the assessed learning skills.
In the year prior to kindergarten, heavy media usage was associated with minor improvements in social skills, but this only applied to children who exceeded two hours of daily media usage.
“Some parents worry that any use of media is bad for children, but we found that moderate to low levels of screen time don’t seem to matter. The real concern is when screen time reaches high levels before we start seeing some of the negative impacts,” said Dore.
She mentioned that excessive media use could harm children as it could replace other more beneficial activities they could engage in, like interacting with peers or adults.
Compared to children with low or moderate media use at night, those spending significant time (over an hour) in front of screens during the night tended to have weaker peer social skills. This might be due to reduced sleep duration or quality, disrupting children’s ability to engage positively with peers during the day.
“Other studies haven’t captured the potential impact of nighttime media use. And those that focused on nighttime media use didn’t investigate its connection to social skills,” said Dore.
A strength of this study was the use of time diaries, which might be more accurate than relying on parents to recall their child’s weekday media use. The study also conducted two measurements of children’s academic, social, and behavioral skills, allowing researchers to observe their progress over time and its relation to screen time usage.
Dore suggested that the study’s findings should provide reassurance for parents concerned about their children’s media use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschool children spend less than an hour per day on screens, but this can be impractical, especially for low-income families.
She said, “When many parents hear that their child shouldn’t have more than an hour of screen time per day, they either feel guilty or they dismiss that advice because it doesn’t match their lives. Of course, parents should monitor screen time. But these low-income families are facing much bigger issues. We need evidence-based efforts to help reduce the barriers their children face in relation to poverty.”
(source:internet, reference only)