According to a new study, prolonged “screen time” could have negative psychological effects on children.
People that play videogames are always looking for science to back up the view that videogames aren’t harmful to anyone, sometimes scoring successful victories, but sadly this isn’t another one of those times. A study coming out of the UK is reporting that there’s a strong possibility that videogame and television use by children can increase their chances of developing psychological issues.
Dr. Angie Page of the University of Bristol performed the study using 1,000 kids ages 10 and 11. The kids filled out a questionnaire that covered how much time they spent watching television or using a computer and their emotional or behavioral states. In addition, an accelerometer measured their daily physical activity.
Page’s results showed that two hours a day of “screen time” increased the odds for “psychological difficulties” by 60 percent over kids with less time in front of the TV. Children that spent two hours each in front of the television and computer in a day had doubled chances to experience mental issues.
These results were universal across different sexes, ages, puberty stages, educational levels, and economic situations. It was also noted that a child spending time alone wasn’t the issue, as reading or doing homework didn’t indicate the same issues as screen time.
Physical activity was one method that Page recommended to include in a child’s daily activities, as kids that were active had less of a negative effect from screen time. However, physical activity wasn’t able to undo any previous damage, with Page also saying: “It wasn’t clear whether having high physical activity levels would ‘compensate’ for high levels of screen viewing in children.”
Page admitted that the biggest flaw in her study was the possibility of inaccurate reporting by children. Dr. Thomas N. Robinson of the Stanford University School of Medicine questioned the study, but said that he too had similar results showing reduced screen time leads to healthier, happier kids, and he recommends allowing around one hour of screen time per day.
There’s a lot of crap for kids to look at on televisions and computers nowadays, but there are also plenty of positive activities available to them that happen through a screen. I’d be interested in a follow-up study that looked at different kinds of screen time, rather than just screen time in general, to see if it was the viewing portal responsible or just the content viewed.