Does screen time negatively affect children?

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There are many studies that analyze the negative effects of spending too much time in front of a cell phone, especially among children. Many have focused on the depression and anxiety it can generate, others are more oriented to eye health or effects related to tics or even lack of sleep.

The fact is that studies are not lacking, and few are conclusive, but today they have presented a really interesting one in the journal PLoS ONE.

According to it, screen time is not harmful for young children, a result that was announced with phrases such as “Screens are not as dangerous as you think”, “Screens do not harm children”, “Children are not harmed by screens”, “Children are not harmed by screens”, “Children are not harmed by screen time”, “Children are not harmed by screens”, and so on. “Children are not harmed by prolonged screen time” or “Screens do not cause anxiety”.

The study is very comprehensive, but it should be noted that it is true that there is a relationship between screen time and depression or anxiety. The point is that many of the children who spend many hours in front of a cell phone are due to lack of parental attention in different ways, and that is the cause of anxiety, not the cell phone.

The study involved almost 12,000 children between the ages of nine and ten from 24 cities in the United States.

According to the surveys conducted, nearly all high school students and two-thirds of elementary school students own a screen-based device, and spend at least one-third of their day looking at them.

The study looked at other symptoms, such as sleep habits, peer relationships and mental health. They also obtained school grades, family income and race.

As a result:

  • No relationship between children’s screen time and decreased sleep quality.
  • No relationship between screen time and academic performance.
  • No relationship between screen time and mental health problems.

The study is not perfect, as many times the data offered by parents about the quality of children’s sleep may not be the real one. The same goes for mental health, it would be necessary to have objective data on the matter, something impossible to achieve today.

There are other studies that indicate that more than four hours for children may be harmful, but the objectivity of the data remains the main problem.

Research continues to be done, such as the effects related to eye protection, posture and other possible physical problems, but also on the benefits, such as interactive, recreational or passive entertainment, as in some cases there may be benefits in mental health, life satisfaction and social interactions.

It is not about measuring the quantity of screen time, but the quality of that time. What is being done in front of the screen all the time? that is the key question, and the answer should be digested with common sense at the forefront.

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