Research has failed to identify any clinical effect of using screen time

If kids are outside playing football, biking, or running with friends, consider giving them more time on their screens. Maybe you can suggest another play session.

It may be strange to encourage children to spend a lot of time on their phones, laptops, or computer consoles. But a large group of research is unaware that anything can harm these activities, as long as they don’t replace sleep, exercise, schooling, and healthy eating. In short, screening time does not itself make children gambling addicts or overweight, uneducated zombies. And if kids are kept safe, using social media is okay too.

Adverse consequences are more likely to be due to poor diet, loss of learning, spending too much time on the sofa, or not getting enough rest. That’s why a parent’s most productive focus should be on encouraging physical activity, sleep, good eating, and learning – and making sure time online doesn’t interfere with healthy activities.

Digital media fears are unreasonable

Research has failed to justify the understandable fears of many parents who have been concerned about the sudden changes in the past two decades in how childhood is lived. It is difficult to identify any clinic-related side effects of increased use of screens or social media. Where little impact can be seen, they are drowning in established effects – such as genetics, socioeconomic circumstances, time adults spend with children, and parental education – that we know, in 50 years. , determines the child’s development.

However, research shows that children are more likely to respect family rules about good living habits if those rules are enforced even if good and shared reasoning, and if they respect the views of children as well as the likes of adults. Children recognize what parents want them to get enough sleep, stay healthy, learn and eat right, and spend time with family together. However, very strict rules, which focus on a set number of minutes for this or that activity, can lead to more secrecy on the part of a child. They can also damage a child’s trust that their parents can help and understand them, if they, for example, encounter traumatic experiences online.

As a trained neuroscientist, I want parents to follow science. However, unsubstantiated “neuro -myths” – often afraid to disguise themselves as science – are now being used to justify concerns about children’s screen time. This is understandable. In just a few years, the digital world has disrupted traditional childhood by taking a different place – and a lot of time – in raising children. We didn’t have iPads at home until 10 years ago. Internet bandwidth could not support online gaming 15 years ago. It seemed like throughout the night, the play became a cultural mainstay. Social media is everywhere. People are understandably worried about side effects.

Inevitably, scientific research has been delayed in providing reliable evidence of the impact of this remarkable change. How do scientists prove the long-term effect of something that hasn’t existed in a long time? It takes time and science is likely to be slow to reach a conclusion.

The foundation of “neuro-myths”

As a result, people were initially looking for answers in other areas that were just as important. Alert to the psychological rewards offered by children’s computer games, they reviewed studies on the consequences for children who do not delay satisfaction – the so -called marshmallow experiment. They also looked at more disturbing studies of children’s television viewing in the 1980s and 1990s, and of research on mice being allowed to administer dopamine-stimulating drugs on their own. This work shows that it justifies fears that exposure to digital media weakens children’s capacities to concentrate and leads them to live more inactive lives.

But time has shown that these analogies are false and misleading. It would appear that children’s attitudes about marshmallows and lab rats being drugged did not provide useful insights into the effects of screen time. The research did not identify the types of screen time currently in use, in itself, as being related to reduced overall mental control, concentration capacities, or physical well-being. A recent review found that the effects of screen time today are similar to television times in the 1950s.

In addition, scientists now better understand that research on high levels of television viewing was less instructive about the effects of television viewing, even in the 1990s. Closer examination shows that this research actually tells us more about the socioeconomic conditions of different families: The prevalence of high-income families is rather biased towards low-income families. These families are likely to have smaller homes, less outdoor space, a culture with television more often than more privileged groups, and fewer alternative activities. Poverty and lack of opportunity prevent a healthier childhood; TV use is largely a symptom, rather than a cause, of deprivation.

It is difficult to identify any clinic-related side effects of increased use of screens or social media.

Research has not found brain damage

Studies have also shown some, and very few, associations between children’s use of social media and their overall well-being or symptoms of mental retardation such as anxiety and depression. Research has found nothing like this behavior for men. In women, there is little relationship between social media time and psychological distress. But it’s small-as a comparative example, wearing glasses seems to be more detrimental to a teenage girl’s social well-being than spending a lot of time on social media, according to the same data.

Photo: Emily Wade. Unsplash.

Little exposure to children

Our research should also be reassuring to parents who may be concerned that young children are exposed to high levels of screen time. We measured the time children spend on digital media in Danish kindergartens, where they typically spend about five to eight hours per day a week between the ages of 3 and 6. In general, the children are exposed to digital media for about five to 10 minutes these days in the vicinity of kindergarten, which we usually consider a good thing. Technology is about the world in which children live and provides opportunities to be taught, even to children.

Let’s assume that, on weekdays, some children spend another two hours a day in digital time at home, perhaps early in the evening when they are tired, giving parents time to finish. homework and emails. This means that, on most days, the lives of young children are about 90 percent free of digital inputs. Understandably, parents may still be anxious because most of the time is a few hours at night when children are at home – perhaps feeling tired and fatigued – before they go to bed. However, our research, looking at children’s days, suggests that parents should be less concerned about minutes and hours; Young Danish children still have ample opportunity to develop in other ways.

Risk of gambling addiction

Some parents are concerned that their children may become addicted to gambling through their exposure as children to digital media and gaming. Studies have found no significant connections between such use and greater risk of gambling addiction in general populations. However, we studied children whose parents were concerned about the overall impact of their children’s play, and then compared them to children whose parents were not concerned. We found that the brains of both groups of children were unrecognizable. But children with anxious parents experience increased stress and conflict between their desire to play and their need to sleep, do homework, and have dinner with their parents.

It is reasonable to worry about preserving the lifestyles we know are good for children – play, time with friends, going out – but it is unwise to confuse this desire with the unreasonable and unreasonable. ‘y evidence arguments about the dangers posed by digital media to children’s brains.

Encouraging rather than restraining children

Other research has shown that the more strict and reactive parenting styles are around media use, children are less intrusive and respectful of parental factors. A more effective strategy is one where children feel that their desires and interests are understood, and they can share reasoning with their parents about the need for exercise, sleep, and education rather than being part of a strategies based on unfounded fear of digital media.

In a study at the Interacting Minds Center in Aarhus, Denmark, my co -worker Stine Strøm Lundsgård and I found that the parents who were most concerned about digital media were those who gave the most value to different types of play. . Parents who are most concerned that their children are enjoying traditional upbringing – for example, playing outside with other children – are probably the most concerned about screen time. These parents have a strong understanding of what a good childhood is and they fear that screen time is shifting it.

This is a reasonable concern. It’s reasonable to worry about preserving the lifestyles we know are good for kids-playing games, spending time with friends, going out. Parents are right to focus on the importance of these aspects of childhood; they should concentrate on the merits of such childhood and encourage those shared values ​​in their children. But they are not wise to confuse this desire with irrational and unsubstantiated arguments about the dangers that digital media poses to children’s brains.

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