Too much time with screens can hinder kids' performance in school, study finds

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Researchers worry about kids falling behind in the classroom

With more young kids spending time in front of screens than ever before, many parents are trying to limit the amount of time their little ones are playing video games or watching TV. 

Now, a new study has found that too much screen time during childhood can have a negative impact on kids’ academic performance. Given that the nature of school is set to change because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers worry about the effect that so much time in front of screens will have on kids’ educational outcomes. 

“The debate about the effects of modern media on children’s learning has never been more important given the effects of today’s pandemic on children’s use of time,” the researchers wrote. “This is the first large, longitudinal study of electronic media use and learning in primary school children, and results showed heavier users of television and computers had significant declines in reading and numeracy two years later compared with light users.” 

Limiting screen time

The researchers included over 1,200 kids in the study, all of whom were between the ages of eight and nine. While their parents reported on the kids’ screen time, the kids received academic assessments at the start of the study, and then again two years later. 

Overall, too much screen time was linked with poorer academic outcomes. However, the researchers found that various types of media could affect classroom performance differently. The researchers learned that more than one hour on the computer could negatively impact kids’ math abilities, whereas two or more hours of watching TV had a poor impact on reading abilities. 

Because the researchers tracked the kids’ academic performance and screen time habits over the course of two years, it was clear that this extended use of screens was the biggest concern. They found that screen time in such a large capacity at this age could translate to kids falling as far as four months behind in school. 

Improving academic performance

While another recent study has highlighted how too much screen time can affect kids getting ready for kindergarten, this study shows that continued screen time later in childhood could make school work harder for kids as they grow up. 

Many parents want to limit screen time because they worry about how it will affect their kids’ behavior or sleeping patterns, but this study emphasizes the importance of limiting screen time in order for kids to reach their full academic potential. 

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