I’ve been really pleased this past week to read a handful of news pieces based on research which shows that the ‘moral panic’ around screen time is largely that. It’s pushed by government, Royalty, and all kinds of ‘leading voices’, but the academic research which studies this presents a very different picture:
Andy Przybylski, associate professor and director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford said studies exploring links between screen time and health sometimes find weak, negative links to aspects of wellbeing such as self-esteem and depression but that the majority were based on surveys and only looked at one snapshot in time.
““The thing that is very very important to understand about this is that these correlations are extremely small,” he said. “And 99% of a child’s wellbeing has nothing measurable to do with screens, no matter how you measure them.”
Przybylski added that while there have been studies that follow children over time, these have generally found that such correlations go away because more of the background of the child is taken into account.
“New good studies, that add to what we understand about the effects of screen time over time on young people – they are really far and few between,” he said.
Dr Pete Etchells, reader in psychology and science communication, Bath Spa University added that the inclusion, for the first time, of “gaming disorder” in the World Health Organisation’s international classification of diseases this week was not backed by evidence.
“It is not necessarily wrong, it is premature,” he said.
and note this, something I’ve said many times – if we’re always immediately jumping to the conclusion that ‘tech is bad’ (and yes, our habits with it could do with looking at), but:
When considering interventions, “if the basic science isn’t good, our solutions can be very costly and not even attain the outcome that we want,” he said.
I also liked what Dr Etchells said on the BBC:
“We’re essentially pathologising a hobby, so what’s next? There are studies on tanning addiction, dance addiction, exercise addiction, but nobody is having a conversation about including them in ICD 11…
“I don’t think policy should be informed by moral panics, which is what it feels like is happening at the moment.”
And I like this from Newsweek:
Experts have sought more substantial evidence for devices’ detriment before WHO officially declared gaming addiction an illness. Developmental psychologist Sue Fletcher-Watson criticized the use of “screen time” as an umbrella term that didn’t differentiate children’s digital activities and noted many older children use the internet to talk with friends or learn more about their world.
Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture in the third sector (especially faith). Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.