In the ongoing debate about the effects of screen time on children, it is important to approach the topic from a scientific standpoint. While there are “pro” and “anti” factions, it is essential to consider the available research and set aside emotional biases. It is crucial to recognize the limitations of studying the effects of screens on cognitive development.
One major limitation is the relatively short timeframe in which smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, making it challenging to conduct comprehensive research. Although some educational programs have shown potential benefits, they are not yet widely implemented. Furthermore, if the effects on cognition were extremely significant, they would be more apparent by now.
Additionally, conducting large-scale experiments on thousands of children to determine the potential effects on their health and development is not ethically or technically feasible. Therefore, researchers employ long-term epidemiological studies, such as the ELFE cohort in France, which has been following 18,000 children since their birth in 2011. The study evaluates cognitive development at different ages and compares it to screen time, including television, smartphones, computers, tablets, and video game consoles.
The findings of the study indicate a negative relationship between screen usage and cognitive development in children. However, when considering the overall family environment, including factors such as socioeconomic status, parental education, and age, the direct effect of screen usage on cognitive development becomes less significant. Most of the observed effect is attributed to social factors associated with the family.
Factors such as the circumstances in which children consume screen media, such as having the television on during meal times, also play a role in cognitive development. These factors, too, are influenced by socioeconomic factors. Family environment has a substantial impact on cognitive development, surpassing the sole influence of screen time.
While the study provides valuable insights, it is important to consider other aspects of child development and their long-term effects. The persistence or amplification of the observed effects over time remains uncertain. Further research is needed as the children in the ELFE cohort continue to grow and develop.
1. Screen Time – The amount of time spent using electronic devices with screens, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions.
2. Cognitive Development – The development of thinking, problem-solving, memory, and other mental abilities in children.
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