Are All Screens Created Equal?


ORLANDO, Fla.  (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Watching tv, scrolling social media, playing video games, screens are everywhere! According to the American Heart Association, kids under 18 are on screens for more than seven hours a day. Previous research said too much screen time could be harmful to a child’s development, but a new study out of Sweden says, depending on the type of screen activity, it may actually be beneficial for your child’s IQ.

Tablets, phones, computers, TVs. The number of screens in the average American household is growing and so is the amount of time kids are spending on them.

But what is all that screen time doing to their brains? Some research suggests that it’s negatively impacting their cognitive development.

Anthony Chemero, PhD, Cognitive Science Researcher, University of Cincinnati, says, “This happens with every new cognitive adjacent technology is that we look at it and say, this is going to somehow disrupt our cognitive abilities, our smarts.”

But researchers in Sweden say screens may not be as bad for kids’ brains as previously thought. In a study where they followed five thousand kids for up to two years, they found those who played video games for more than one hour increased their IQ by about two and a half points. They also found no major negative or positive effects. From watching TV or using social media. That isn’t to say that there aren’t negative effects at all, but when it comes to people’s intelligence …  Chemero explains, “The arguments that they are making us dumber don’t hold up.”

The researchers only studied the effects of screens on kids’ intelligence. They did not study the effects on physical activity, sleep, wellbeing, or school performance.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa.


REPORT #2987

BACKGROUND: Roughly half of all children ages eight and under have their own tablet device and spend an average of 2.25 hours a day on them. A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that children who spend more than two hours a day on screen-time activities score lower on language and thinking tests. Children with more than seven hours a day of screen time experience thinning of the brain’s cortex, which is the area of the brain related to critical thinking and reasoning. Excessive screen time can inhibit a child’s ability to observe and experience the typical everyday activities they need to engage with to learn about the world. Studies show children under two learn less from a video than when learning from another person. Between one and three years of age, language development expands rapidly, and children learn language best when engaging and interacting with adults who are talking and playing with them. There is also evidence that children who watch a lot of television during early elementary school years perform less well on reading tests and may show deficits in attention.


PHYSICAL HEALTH AND SCREEN TIME: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than one or two hours a day. The more TV and videos your child watches, the greater his or her risk is of becoming overweight. And having electronics in a child’s bedroom increases this risk as well. The more time that is spent watching a screen, the more likely children are to have trouble falling asleep or have an irregular sleep schedule. Elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer or smartphone are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems. Exposure to video games is linked with an increased possibility of attention problems in children, and too much exposure to violence through media can desensitize children to violence. As a result, children might learn to accept violent behavior as a normal way to solve problems. When screen time is excessive, it leaves less time for active and creative play.


POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF SCREEN TIME: Recent research revealed that kids who spent more time with screens had more close friends. Katie Paulich, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and colleagues at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics in Boulder, CO, analyzed information from a diverse national sample of 11,800 nine- and ten-year-olds, including questionnaires about screen time, parental reports of behavioral issues and grades, and mental health assessments. On average, boys spent about 45 minutes more daily with screens than girls, topping out at nearly five hours daily on weekends and four hours on weekdays. Boys and girls used screens differently, with boys spending twice as much time with video games, while girls spent more time engaging with social media. “Using this extensive data set, we found that yes, there are relationships between screen time and negative outcomes, but they are not large and not dire,” said senior author John Hewitt, director of the Institute for Behavioral Genetics. Because the new study only looked at a specific younger age, the findings don’t necessarily apply to older kids. The researchers intend to follow the group over time.


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Angela Koenig

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