Screens aren’t evil: new study says they don’t harm kids and even have some benefits

Screens aren't evil: new study says they don't harm kids and even have some benefits

In the face of new technologies and even cultural habits, we tend to position ourselves in a Manichean way: either everything is bad, or everything is good. Either I am a parent who let my children consume screens, or I am a parent who strictly forbid them .

In fact, it is something that has already happened with the radio, the telegraph, television, even reading. Now it is time for the screens of the smartphone, computers and consoles. However, a new study , one of the largest to date, suggests that school-age children who spend more time in front of screens are only slightly more likely to have attention disorders, sleep disorders or grades lower and are not more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.


Only slightly more likely if they spend a lot of time. Compared to other life-shaping factors, the influence of screen time was minimal. For example, a child’s socioeconomic status has a 2.5 times greater impact on such behavioral outcomes . Of all the influences evaluated, screen time accounted for only about 2% of the variation among children in the measured outcomes. We could even be confusing cause and correlation: perhaps children with more sleep disorders or with more anxiety turn to the screens to distract themselves or to calm down.

But there are also advantages: the children who spent more time with the screens had more close friends. It could be that the type of screen time matters more than the amount. For example, previous research has found that video games played with other people can foster relationships, particularly for children (who tend to play with them more), while binge-watching alone can have negative consequences. Lead author Katie Paulich , Ph.D. Student from the Department of Psychology and Neurosciences: "These findings suggest that we should consider screens, but that screen time is probably not inherently harmful to our youth."

The study analyzed information from a diverse national sample of 11,800 9- and 10-year-olds , including questionnaires on screen time, parental reports of behavior problems and grades, and mental health assessments.

On average, boys spent about 45 more minutes a day on screens than girls, exceeding five hours a day on weekends and four hours on weekdays. Boys and girls used screens differently, boys spent twice as much time playing video games, while girls spent more time interacting with social media .

While the American Academy of Pediatrics has established screen time guidelines for children under the age of 5, the authors note that there is not yet an empirically established threshold for what is an "acceptable level" of screen time.

In other words, you don’t have to demonize screens. What seems to matter the most is what is consumed through the screen. And consuming a lot of screens could be more of a symptom, not a consequence. Besides that it has positive effects.