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Study finds screen time doesn’t hurt kids’ social skills

Study finds screen time doesn’t hurt kids’ social skills

Lockdown means an excess of screen time for kids as we endeavour to entertain and educate them from home.

Study finds screen time doesn’t hurt kids’ social skills

But according to numerous studies, more time spent in front of screens is not necessarily something to be concerned about.

New research from Ohio State University suggests young people today are just as socially skilled as those from the previous generation despite the time spent with smartphones and social media.

The study compared teacher and parent evaluations of children who started kindergarten in 1998 – six years before Facebook launched – with those who began school in 2010, when the first iPad debuted.

Results showed both groups of kids were rated similarly on interpersonal skills such as the ability to form and maintain friendships and get along with people who are different. They were also rated similarly on self-control, such as the ability to regulate their temper.

Douglas Downey, lead author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said there’s “very little evidence that screen exposure was problematic for the growth of social skills”.

“In virtually every comparison we made, either social skills stayed the same or actually went up modestly for the children born later,” Downey said.

Meanwhile, a review of research into adolescent mental health in the digital age found evidence linking screens to harm is scarce.

According to the review by Candice Odgers and Michaeline Jensen, the most recent and rigorous large‐scale preregistered studies “report small associations between the amount of daily digital technology usage and adolescents’ well‐being”.

The review says these associations “do not offer a way of distinguishing cause from effect and, as estimated, are unlikely to be of clinical or practical significance”.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, University of Oxford associate professor Andrew Przybylski said his research had found that negative effects that do exist from screen time “probably only kick in for a tiny minority of users (about 0.5 percent) or those spending more than two-thirds of their waking hours online”. 

As for video games, he noted various studies highlight numerous benefits to online play.

“Some of our own research shows that two hours a day of screen-based leisure is associated with improved peer relationships and increased sociality,” he said.

“Gaming meets our fundamental needs for exploration, competence and social connection. And games often improve rather than undermine our reasoning abilities.”

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