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Viewpoints from the Journal

Viewpoints from the interdisciplinary leaders in optimal developmental and behavioral health for all children.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Limiting screen time may improve cognition. An emerging picture of digital media and development.

A study published last week in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health looked at the relationship between cognition in 8-11 years olds and their daily recreation screen time, sleep duration, and physical activity. Using newly released data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, the authors found that children meeting recommendations for limited screen time (<2 hours per day) and those meeting recommendations for both screen time and sleep duration performed better on measures of global cognition. (MinnPost summary)

Though these correlations do not prove a causal direction, the data do add to an emerging picture that too much screen time disrupts and/or displaces the normal social interactions (e.g. from parents) on which normal human development relies.

We dug into our archives and found some articles we’ve published about the impact of digital media and screen time on children’s behavior and learning.

Drs. Munzer and Radesky give us two complementary articles about digital media use as a marker for child self-regulation problems and negative parental outlook about a child’s behavior.

Drs. Khan and Reich present results about how the crucial activity of reading together can be disrupted by the presence of a television or even just by switching from paper to e-books.

Finally, Mr. Sanders discusses a potential intervention to help families understand the good and bad of screen time, and how to develop a family media plan.

Regardless of how much you favor the use of digital devices and digital media in your own world, it is important to understand that they are much more than just passive enhancements to our lives. For better or worse, they are dynamic influences that have real impacts on our children’s minds and our family relationships. Having a good understanding of what digital technology can or can not do may be the difference between having a useful tool and becoming the used tool.

--Jeffrey H. Yang, M.D.

JDBP Web Editor

See the rest of our collection on Digital Media, Media Use, and Social Media