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New research reveals screens don't hurt kids as much as we may think

screen time
Posted at 9:57 AM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 11:57:50-04

BOULDER, Co. — From schoolwork to Zoom classes to distractions, our kids get in a lot of screen time. With the way American children are growing up, with access to tablets and phones and it being so different from how their parents grew up, many adults most like have this same question.

"Is screen time harming the nation’s youth?" asked Katie Paulich, a PHD student at CU Boulder.

She and other researchers used data from nearly 12,000 children, ages 9 and 10, to look for an answer to that question. What she and her colleagues found may be surprising.

"We saw that it was related to a greater number of friendships and stronger social relationships, and we really didn't see anything with depression, anxiety, anything like that," explained Paulich.

There was an association of kids who spent more time on screens with attention disorders, poor sleep and lower grades. However, the study says the influence that screen time had on these was minimal.

For example, socioeconomic status had 2.5 times greater of an impact on such behavior outcomes.

"Any effects that we are seeing of screen time are very small and they're really not dire," she said.

As far as stronger social relationships, Paulich says that aspect was associated with online gaming, texting and social media, but if children are to participate in these activities, she urges parental involvement.

"It really comes down to using a common sense with screens and seeing like, 'Hey, if, if this video game is beyond the age level of my child, maybe this is something we want to monitor,'" said Paulich.

But what about the amount of screen time? The study found the average screen time for kids was four hours on weekdays and five hours on the weekends. Even given that seemingly high amount of hours, the impacts were small.

Paulich says some things to keep in mind, however, are the content they’re consuming. The more use kids’ brains are getting, the better.

"We know video gaming is more social versus something like watching TV, which is very stagnant but the bottom line is, while you should be mindful, you really don't have to worry," Paulich said.

Hopefully offering some relief to parents who see their children live more of their lives on screens.