Thursday, February 15, 2018

Managing Children's Use of Screen Media

This article by NPR provides a roundup of some of the latest research, as well as some previous reports, on the pros and cons of children using digital resources, with the goal of helping guide decision-making in families around screen use. 
1.) Expansive Access to Digital Resources – Pros and Cons
A new report from the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, discusses the results of a survey regarding the online experiences of children and youth around the world. They found that adolescents and young people are the most connected generation and that children under 18 represent one in three internet users worldwide. Digital resources are expanding access to education and work, and in some places, young people are using them to become more civically engaged. But there are serious harms — such as sexual abuse, child pornography and sex trafficking — that are exacerbated by the Internet, especially in the developing world. And in the developed world, there are emerging concerns about the ties between Internet use and mental health problems like anxiety and depression. The key, say the authors of the UNICEF report, is "taking a Goldilocks approach" — not too much, not too little — and "focusing more on what children are doing online and less on how long they are online."

UNICEF (2017). The state of the world’s children in 2017: Children in a digital world. New York City, NY: United Nations Children’s Fund.

2.) Smartphone Usage Rises Amongst Younger Generation

According to, according to a nationally representative parent survey from Common Sense Media, almost all households with children under the age of 8, regardless of socioeconomic status, now have access to a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. These numbers are up by nearly half since just six years ago. While children's overall screen time has held steady for years, more and more of it is taking place on handheld devices: 48 minutes a day in 2017. This study is important because it sheds light on the fact that more and more children in the younger generations are spending time on electronics such as smartphones.

Common Sense Media (2013). New research from Common Sense Media reveals mobile media use among young children has tripled in two years. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.

3.) Delaying Smartphone Distribution For Children

Brooke Shannon, a parent in Austin, Texas, with three daughters, started an online pledge last year called Wait Until 8th that calls on parents to put off giving kids a smartphone until the end of middle school. "Children just don't have the brain development at this age to be able to navigate the tricky social situations that come with social media," she says. So far, a few thousand families across the country have taken the pledge. The importance of this movement is that it has helped to create a community of parents within each school waiting to give their kids smartphones until at least eighth grade — when most children are out of elementary and nearing high school. So far, more than 4,000 families across the country have signed the online pledge.

WaitUntil8th (2017). WaitUntil8th. Austin, TX: WaitUntil8th.

4.) High Usage of Screen Media Among Children

A study released by the Psychology of Popular Media Culture assesses the extent of screen media usage among the children of parents who were interviewed for this study.

Key findings/statements:

§   It is hard for my child to stop using screen media.
§   When my child has had a bad day, screen media seems to be the only thing that helps him/her feel better.
§   My child's screen media use causes problems for the family.
     The amount of time my child wants to use screen media keeps increasing.

This study is important because it sheds light on potential problems screen media can cause to a family dynamic and to the child’s development. Other possible avenues for habitual entertainment for children should be explored – or limitations on media usage should be instilled.

5.) Limits on Child’s Screen Time May Not Be Effective

In a study released last month in Child Development, researchers at University of Oxford and Cardiff University in the U.K. found limits on screen time over the course of a month were not necessarily associated with positive outcomes in children. On the contrary, the researchers found small links between moderately higher screen use and the children's good moods. The researchers concluded that caregivers, and their doctors, should do a cost-benefit analysis before "setting firm limits”. Future research should focus on how using digital devices with parents or care-givers and turning it into a social time can effect children’s psychological wellbeing, curiosity, and the bonds with the caregiver involved.’

Pryzbylski, A. (2017). Child Development.

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