New research performed by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) in America has shown that spending more time with a digital screen is unlikely to be directly harmful to young children. The study attracted global attention as screen time has been blamed for disrupting health and mental fitness time and time again.
However, despite the absence of strong links between screen time and mental health, we still need to keep an eye on health consequences. The study showed that increased screen time was not the direct cause of depression or anxiety in children, but resulted in improved peer relations instead.
The study took into account 12,000 nine-to-ten-year-olds from 24 diverse sites across the United States. The children answered a 14-item screen time questionnaire about the different types of recreational media used on screens. They were also asked how many close friends they have.
The parents also filled a screen time questionnaire, a child behavior checklist, and anxiety statement scales. They also reported their child’s grades at school, their sleep quality and quantity, family income, race, etc.
The research did find associations between children’s screen time and sleep quality and mental health, but the effects were too small to be considered significant. These effects were not confirmed as a direct cause of increased screen time.
However, parents still need to show caution with their children’s screen time as the study did find some associations with poor mental health. Even though the effects were not major, a review of the research suggested that the negative impacts, however small they may be, should not be ruled out.