Spending three hours a day in front of a screen has 'detrimental effect' on children's mental health
A new Irish study has revealed some rather worrying findings.
There is no denying that many children have spent more time than usual in front of screens and on devices over the past six months. And this, new research has found, can end up coming at a devastating cost.
According to a new Irish study, published in the Child Indicators Research journal, children who spend significant amounts of time on screens are more likely to suffer declines in emotional wellbeing, and the level of harm has increased in more recent times.
While some digital activities such as gaming, educational engagement and socialising were found to have “small and insignificant effects” on young children, the consumption of media such as Netflix, YouTube or other content was more likely to prove harmful, the research found.
In the study, sociologists Melissa Bohnert and Dr Pablo Gracia at Trinity College Dublin, looked at the experiences of nine-year-olds in both 2008 and 2018, drawing on data from the ongoing Growing Up in Ireland research initiative.
The paper, Emerging Digital Generations, is the first examination of how digital technology use affects socio-emotional wellbeing and how these impacts have changed across two recent cohorts.
One of the key findings of the research was how the duration and type of screen engagement affect children.
Interestingly, negative outcomes associated with high levels of screen time on child mental health were more severe for the younger generation – those born in 2008 – compared with those born in 1998.
“Spending time in media activities like watching YouTube videos, other videos or downloading apps has detrimental effects on child mental health, especially when these activities do not involve socialising with others,” the authors told The Irish Times.
“Other digital activities, like doing homework or searching information on the internet, have neither positive nor negative associations with children’s mental health outcomes.”
In conclusion, the researchers found that spending more than three hours a day either on digital devices or watching TV is linked with “important declines” in child mental health, including hyperactivity, self-regulatory problems or disruptive behaviours.