There are a few (million) kids who will be happy to read the findings of a recent study on screen time and academic performance. A review of studies published in JAMA Pediatrics found that, depending on the types of screens used, academic performance may not be negatively affected. This study claims to be one of the first to focus on screen time as it relates to academics rather than how it relates to health.
The authors of the paper found that screen time spent on television shows and video games does adversely affect performance in subjects such as math and language. However, the same negative effects were not found in other forms of screen time, such as Internet use and social media.
According to this new data, which was collected via review and analysis of 58 different studies, adolescents are more adversely affected than children. It also indicates that the amount of screen time matters less than what kids are actually doing in front of the screen.
Despite this new information, advice to parents remains largely the same.
In no way is this review stating that kids should put down the video games in favor of their favorite social media outlet. The findings simply state that more damage may be done during those hypnotic hours of television marathons. Researchers also readily acknowledge that many factors could be at play here. Television might be keeping older children from more productive activities (like studying). It could also cause other issues, like a decrease in attention span, which impact school work.
Ultimately, they recommend “that education and public health professionals should consider screen media use supervision and reduction as strategies to improve the academic success of children and adolescents.”
Reducing screen time can be harder than it seems, but there are resources to help.
So how do we reduce the amount of time tweens gather round their televisions and battle each other on video games? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has established a comprehensive list of guidelines for media use and children. Among their suggestions are helpful hints like “know your children’s friends both online and off” and “screen time shouldn’t always be alone time.”
Parents can also try out the AAP’s toolkit for creating your own Family Media Plan. Through this interactive tool you can answer questions about your family and lifestyle and create a personalized plan for keeping screen time at reasonable levels. You can also measure your child’s screen “addiction” with this quiz.
Screen time is just like everything else in life: Moderation is key. If you wouldn’t let your kids eat dessert in place of every meal, then substituting video games for face-to-face communication is probably not the healthiest idea either. Putting down the remotes might not give us complete control over next semester’s report card, but a remote control isn’t going to get kids to the academic finish line either.