It’s a familiar sight in the majority of young families: young children bent over a screen for hours, texting or gaming, lost in a digital world.
Many parents worry, how much screen time is too much?
But a recent study found that may be the wrong question. The findings suggest that how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction. This held true after researchers controlled for screen time.
“Typically, researchers and clinicians quantify or consider the amount of screen time as of paramount importance in determining what is normal or not normal or healthy or unhealthy,” said lead author Sarah Domoff, who did the research while a postdoctoral research fellow at University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development.
“Our study has demonstrated that there is more to it than the number of hours. What matters most is whether screen use causes problems in other areas of life or has become an all-consuming activity.”
Much research exists on adolescents and screen use, but Domoff said that to her knowledge this is the first tool in the United States that measures screen media addiction in children ages 4-11. She believes it will be a valuable tool for parents, clinicians and researchers.
Some of the warning signs include: if screen time interferes with daily activities, causes conflict for the child or in the family, or is the only activity that brings the child joy (see infographic above for complete list of warning signs of screen media addiction).
Kids who use media in unhealthy ways have problems with relationships, conduct and other emotional symptoms, Domoff said. The study didn’t examine whether the emotional and behaviour problems or the media addiction came first.
Domoff, a research faculty affiliate at U-M’s Center for Human Growth and Development, is now an assistant professor of psychology at Central Michigan University. Other study authors include: U-M’s Kristen Harrison, Ashley Gearhardt, Julie Lumeng and Alison Miller; and Douglas Gentile of Iowa State State University.
The study, “Development and validation of the problematic media use measure: A parent report measure of screen media ‘addiction’ in children, appears in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture, a journal of the American Psychological Association.
more recommended stories
Brain training app improves users’ concentration, study shows
A new ‘brain training’ game designed.
Investment in AI is essential to modernise the education sector
Jayne Warburton, former Assistant Head Teacher.
Parents, kids spend more time discussing how to use mobile technology
Study found that parents spend more.
How “tech intensity” is the call from Microsoft
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls for.
Advertising in kids’ apps more prevalent than parents may realise
Ninety-five percent of reviewed apps for.
Children put on by robots
Science Robotics journal: Study by CITEC.
Thousands of mobile apps for children might be violating their privacy
Thousands of the most popular apps.
Harnessing the potential of blockchain to transform education
Blockchain technology can help improve old.
Machine learning will change jobs
Machine learning computer systems, which get.
Action games expand the brain’s cognitive abilities
Psychologists have combined and analysed studies.