Ever since the invention of the TV, parents have complained about their children getting ‘square eyes’ from too much screen time.
Screen time has skyrocketed among children since the Covid-19 pandemic. Parents have been concerned about whether their children may be suffering from gaming addiction.
However, a new study from the University of Colorado has assessed 11,875 nine- and 10-year-old children and concluded that increased screen time is “unlikely to be directly harmful”.
Researchers examined the effects of screen time on mental health, academic performance as well as sleep habits and relationships between peers in the largest-scale study.
While TV and videogame use among kids is ‘moderately’ associated with increased behavioural problems, poorer sleep, and worse academic performance, this was largely down to just how much children spend on screens.
Startlingly, the study found that children’s friendships and peer relationships were enhanced by screen time – as any parent who has had to tell their kids to keep it down on Fortnite can surely attest.
“Adolescence is a critical developmental period during which important aspects of health and well-being are easily influenced,” the researchers write.
To keep up to date with all the latest tech stories, make sure you sign up to one of our newsletters here.
“As electronic media use among adolescents climbs, screens are increasingly incorporated into adolescents’ development, and therefore, potential relationships between screen time and adolescent well-being are of interest.”
Children’s experiences with electronic media vary based on the type of screen they use. The impact on anxiety and depression can be affected by whether children are texting, playing games, or watching TV. The study argues that screen time itself is not automatically a cause for concern, but rather, it is how kids are using screens that matters.
It is currently a controversial topic to discuss the use of electronic media and screens by children. China has recently placed a limit of three hours per week on gaming for children under 18 years old. They also suspended licences for new videogames as part a crackdown against gaming.