Study Says Not All Screen Time Causes Kids To Do Worse In School

by Leah Groth
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Not all screen time is created equal, according to the latest research

The topic of screen time is one of the hottest issues in parenting today. It seems as though every month a new study is released with new recommendations about how long or often children should be allowed access to technology and the possible repercussions it can have. It’s confusing to say the least. On Monday, a new review of studies published in JAMA Pediatrics was released delving deeper into how screen time impacts children’s academic performance. Surprisingly, many forms of it may not. Researchers found that different types of screen time are not created equal when it comes to academics.

In fact, the only types of screen time that negatively impacted them were watching television and playing video games.

The study analyzed the academic achievement of 106,000 students aged four to 18, looking at their time spent on the internet, cell phones, television, video games and other screen media use. Overall, their meta-analysis found no link between screen time and school performance. However, when broken down by type of screen time, they did find that specifics matter.

For example, watching television impacted things like language and math abilities for both teens and younger children and overall academic composite for teens. Teens who watched more television were more directly impacted than younger children who spent more time glued to the tube. As for video games, in teens it only seemed to impact their academic composite score.

So what does this mean for parents? Researchers hope that their findings about how each type of screen time impacts children will give parents and educators insight into how to allocate and police screen time. In their conclusion, the authors write that “each screen-based activity should be analyzed individually for its association with academic performance” and that “education and public health professionals should consider supervision and reduction to improve the academic performance of children and adolescents exposed to these activities.”

If you are concerned about your child’s screen time and want to come up with a solid plan on how to monitor it, the American Association of Pediatrics has created a super useful tool. Their online family media planner is a super easy way to design a plan specific to your child. You can input their age and it will walk you through all the steps to creating a healthy schedule, giving you tips on when to avoid screen time and specifically, which types to avoid in general.

Another great no nonsense approach to the screen time debacle is to pick up Anya Kamenetz’s book The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life. The journalist, an expert on education and technology — and most importantly a mom of two young kids — interviews over 500 parents in the book and a whole bunch of experts. There is so much great advice and tons of awesome suggestions on how to maintain balance in your home.