Screen time in children does not necessarily have a negative impact on their health and overall skills. It could even have benefits on reading and writing if shared with parents, a new Australian study reveals. Rather than focusing on the amount of time spent in front of screens, the emphasis should be placed on discussions related to the content viewed.
A new Australian study questions the link between the amount of time children spend in front of a screen and potential problems in their development, academic skills and health. This meta-analysis, which covers a sample of 1.9 million children and adolescents, published in Nature Human Behavior even suggests a positive impact of hours spent in front of the television or computer on general skills in reading and children’s writing, as long as these moments are shared with their parents.
“This means that taking time to look at screens with kids could be a good thing,” says Rebecca Rolland, a speech pathologist and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in an article she wrote for Psychology Today. This finding highlights the importance of the quality of interactions during screen time, rather than its quantity. According to her, the real question to ask is not so much the time spent by children in front of a screen, but what they do when they are in front of a screen and the interactivity that can result from it. “There’s video chatting or Zoom, playing Roblox with friends, making videos to put on TikTok, and just scrolling. It’s important to keep in mind that all of these activities are happening on the screen. But they are actually different activities, which affect children in different ways.”
Fewer limits and more interactions
Although some aspects of screen time are associated with negative effects, such as excessive social media use and its links to depression in adolescents, the study highlights the need for balance. The researchers recommend a nuanced approach, considering the potential benefits and risks associated with different types of screen use. “Young children, especially those aged two and a half and under, may have difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction on screen. For them, screen time may be more problematic, especially if “It deprives them of the essential interactions they need with real-life people,” adds Rebecca Rolland.
These findings offer new insights for parents and educators regarding integrating screen time into children’s daily lives. Rather than imposing strict limits, the emphasis should be on enriching and educational interactions in front of screens. “Next time you’re with your kids, keep this in mind. Use technology to start conversations. Ask open-ended questions. See what screens are for your kids. Help them use screens in a meaningful way. more active,” advised Rebecca Rolland, “And, for teens in particular, encourage them to cut back on social media if they use it a lot. Help them figure out which apps and interactions are most important to them, and “Focus only on these. This will help them become more self-aware and improve their mental health.” Caution is therefore always required.