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A new study reduces the seriousness of the impact of screen exposure on children's development

17.09.2023 12:30 PM
A new study reduces the seriousness of the impact of screen exposure on children's development
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A new study reduces the seriousness of the impact of screen exposure on children's development

A large-scale study, the results of which were published on Wednesday, showed that the time children spend in front of screens partly affects their development, but these effects are limited and depend above all on the way these screens are used.

The authors of the study, which was conducted under the auspices of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France and whose results were published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, concluded that “the context in which screens are used, and not just the time that children spend in front of the screen, affects on their cognitive development.

Children's excessive exposure to screens (computers, smartphones, and televisions) has for years raised concerns expressed by many political leaders, as well as some caregivers who see this as a serious threat to the point of linking it to cases of autism.

However, the scientific consensus is more cautious in approaching this issue. The study conducted by the French Institute adds to other research work that reduces the extent of the problems associated with the use of screens and places them in a broader context.

The new study is classified as a “cohort study,” which is a type of research that allows for very solid conclusions to be drawn, and it involves following up a large group of people (in this case, 14 thousand children) over a period of years.

The researchers evaluated these children at three ages: two years, three and a half years, and then five and a half years. They concluded that there was a "limited" link between screen use and their intellectual development.

It is certain that “at ages 3.5 and 5.5 years, screen time was associated with lower scores in general cognitive development, especially in the areas of fine motor skills, language, and independence,” according to what the National Institute of Health and Medical Research said in a statement.

"However, when lifestyle factors potentially affecting cognitive development were taken into account, the negative relationship decreased and became of low magnitude," the institute added.

In other words, it is not the presence of screens that affects a child's development, but rather the influence related to when children use screens and how they look at them.

For example, the children studied seemed to be greatly affected by frequent family TV viewing during meals.

“Television, by attracting the attention of family members, interferes with the quality and quantity of parent-child interactions,” epidemiologist Shuai Yang, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “However, this is crucial at this age for language acquisition.”

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