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Screen time and kids’ development

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I came across this on Slashdot (the original article was on Bloomberg):

Brain scans of adolescents who are heavy users of smartphones, tablets and video games look different from those of less active screen users, preliminary results from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes of Health show, according to a report on Sunday by "60 Minutes." That's the finding of the first batch of scans of 4,500 nine- to 10-year-olds. Scientists will follow those children and thousands more for a decade to see how childhood experiences, including the use of digital devices, affect their brains, emotional development and mental health.

In the first round of testing, the scans of children who reported daily screen usage of more than seven hours showed premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world.... Early results from the $300 million study, called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), have determined that children who spend more than two hours of daily screen time score lower on thinking and language tests. A major data release is scheduled for early 2019.

It sounds like that’s quite a major effect, I’m really interested in how the results will turn out, and also what if anything the implications will be for adult screen time. Scary! But also surprising that it has taken them this long to organise a major study, after all video games and handheld consoles have been around since the early 1990’s at least. Doing this in the smartphone era sounds like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted...


  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    Good point on why it took so long, since video games are basically the same thing, social media acts on the same reward mechanisms to keep people engaged and interested. If I were to guess, I would say with smartphones affecting more people, including adults, it might have gained more notice.

    The two hour mark was also a point that began to show drops in mental health on that gen Z thread of mine. From what I remember, face to face time acts as a sort of antidote to screen time.

  • LincLinc Site owner Detroit Moderator

    I'm not sure I'd allow a kid under 16 to have a smart phone without strict usage rules. I've heard that folks like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs wouldn't let their children use their own products, and I don't think it's an accident that Apple continues to prioritize developing tools to control and restrict the usage of phones by children.

  • Also kids must not listen to jazz

    Watch twatter based pResident Evil
    or indeed play games, meditate with Lamas or grow up ...

    I think I got this child rearing all wrong. :3

  • LincLinc Site owner Detroit Moderator

    @lobster said:
    Also kids must not listen to jazz

    You're talking about content.

    This is more akin to not giving teens a Corvette. Or letting them in casinos.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    My daughter is single-handedly raising a child who seems to have developed an anxiety disorder.
    For a start, I have to confess it irritates me that everything has to bear a label; kids are no longer 'naughty', 'spoiled' or 'disruptive'. It's ADHD, aspergers, dyslexic.... but then again, focusing and pinning down an aspect of behaviour that has legitimate grounds is progress... anyway...

    She is very careful to divide his time between technology-related pastimes and those requiring human input and reaction, dialogue and engagement. But it's not an easy task for her, because of course, children are heavily influenced by their peers...

    For Christmas he is getting a computer game, but also a nice load of books, which he adores... it's all about balance, I guess.
    You can't undo what we have progressed with as a society, or race, even. But you can apply balance, restraint and encouragement, where appropriate.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited December 2018

    This past Thanksgiving my niblings had were banned from technology for misbehaving and not listening to their parents. Not that they are constantly glued to screens, but not having access they played with each other and me. For the adults it was noted that it was positive that they were playing with each other more, but also that the general environment was noisier and not as nice for conversation. I think that points to much of the appeal for letting kids use technology, it acts as convenient baby sitter.

  • LincLinc Site owner Detroit Moderator
    edited December 2018

    @federica said:
    I have to confess it irritates me that everything has to bear a label; kids are no longer 'naughty', 'spoiled' or 'disruptive'. It's ADHD, aspergers, dyslexic

    It's a difficult thing. Labels unlock services and assistance, and raise awareness for everyone involved.

    My parents were told I likely had ADD by teachers in early primary school. They chose to not take me for diagnosis & medication, but to work closely with my teachers all the way thru the fifth or sixth grade to make sure I had the structure required for me to succeed. That was a ton of effort afforded by my mom having left her job to raise my sister and me, which was in turn afforded by my dad having a secure, well-paying technology job.

    If you're working full-time and getting the "ADHD" label lets you get your child auto-enrolled in services and programs to provide that structure without all the communication overhead, isn't that a positive thing? The stigma is challenging, but I think society as a whole is moving in a really positive direction around it all.

    As long as labels are used as enablers and not stigmas or excuses, and we recognize they can exist on a spectrum, they can be really good.

    (There's also a whole tangent here about how learning to manage my particular level of ADD without medication and letting it shape my life and career is super interesting and I feel incredibly lucky I've been able to do that. My brain works differently than a lot of folks, and that can turn into really big problems for kids that don't have so many advantages early on.)

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I should have explained myself better, but my peperonata was burning... :D

    Permit me to be more specific:
    I feel uncomfortable when a child bears a specific label for an aspect of behaviour that may be presumed by those who are not professional clinicians or therapists. Many parents will excuse their child's behaviour by explaining that he - or she - has a condition which in fact is purely presumed or assumed by the parent, without any prior input from a Doctor or expert.
    Sometimes, that child is just a nasty little piece of work, and they're merely riding on the apparent tacit approval or misconception of their parent.

    I agree, we are now far more aware and cognisant of specific areas of mental pressure, and those children who, a mere few years ago would have suffered dreadful treatment and consequences through not being accurately diagnosed, are receiving sympathetic support, help and different angles from which to deal with a range of situations, so that the child is at last, being heard and treated appropriately.

    Then again, when is an older child with a specific issue, manifesting that issue, and when are they just 'playing' on it? Ya know, some kids can be crafty...

    (I specify 'older' because young children may not fully understand what their condition is....)

  • LincLinc Site owner Detroit Moderator

    @federica said:
    Then again, when is an older child with a specific issue, manifesting that issue, and when are they just 'playing' on it? Ya know, some kids can be crafty...

    I see that not as an aspect of labeling, but as an aspect of the general condition of being a teenager. :lol:

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Screen time and kids’ development

    On a more serious note...

    I would have to say when it comes to how an individual will turn out... Karma must have a hand in it ...Also what I find fascinating is that our sense doors are being constantly bombarded by all sorts of information that shapes our thoughts and help to molds us....AKA the psycho-physical phenomenon called self...

    The brain from what i gather can only process tiny amounts of the billions of bites of data that it receives from our surroundings, sounds, shapes, sensations etc etc....

    The mind's thoughts interact with what's on the screen just like it interacts with others/things in the world away from the screen ( a lot of self-talking going on )...Hmm well I guess this world too is also just a big screen...

    Change is inevitable ...Suffering is optional...That's modern technology & progress for ya...

  • Zazen1Zazen1 London Explorer

    I think we are beginning to see the negative effects of the smartphone generation. Many scientific studies now link attention deficit, anxiety and depression to overuse of smartphones/tablets in conjunction with social media. The light given off from a screen unfiltered can mess with brain chemistry and cause insomnia. In my humble opinion we developed the technology faster than our ability to prescribe how best to use it and as a result we are seeing the fallout. It is not the technology that's the problem - it's the way we use/misuse it.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yeah, I have a blue light filter on my phone, because I have found that playing one or 2 games of spider solitaire once I'm ready to kip actually helps me drop off to sleep...

  • I have a 13 year old, she's definitely on her phone too much, so are her friends. There are things about it that truly just do not matter and there are things about it that matter a lot. Like anything else, it is one factor in a whole bunch of other factors. When she was smaller it was super-annoying to have other kids come over and all they wanted to do was play on their devices, even when I requested those devices be left home. Parents don't comply. OTOH the educational apps really nurtured a love for learning that she still has today. She learned more at a faster rate than I did at her age because she had access to the information.

    Since she's straight A honors and maintains that along with a 15-hours/week of dance classes (she wants that heavy schedule) I honestly don't care about her phone use. We have always spoken about boundaries and appropriate use concerning it... just like going outside, there are safety issues. I do reserve the right to monitor her use because she is still a child and needs a degree of supervision. Sometimes I'll spot check but I already know what she's doing for the most part, and my spot checks have always confirmed this. But we communicate and have a solid relationship, and that's really the key.

    It's REALLY EASY to be negative about the current young generation but actually a lot of them are doing really amazing things. There are a lot of really fantastic kids out there. I truly believe many of them will do positive amazing things as adults. There is a definite shift in awareness of accepting others who are different. A lot of our young people are extremely tolerant and accepting of others regardless of acknowledged differences. I think this is WONDERFUL.

    I think the interpersonal social skills and "social media" false images are issues for sure so it will be interesting to see how that evolves, but kids are still making friends with each other and hanging out. As parents we really are challenged with navigating issues that didn't exist at all when we grew up. And we are doing our best.

    The ADHD etc labels are everywhere... I don't think this can be blamed so much on screen time as there are other factors including family dynamics, and even our food which is dramatically different than it was even 2 generations ago. A lot of this stuff has always existed but was not spoken about or dealt with. We are living in a time of accessibility to things, comforts, and information that has never existed in all the history of humanity--- it is extraordinary!!

    It'll be ok, remember, nothing is under control! <3

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    When writing first became a thing, Socrates lamented the fact that "kids these days" would lose their ability to memorize things. He was 100% right, how many of us can recite from memory the our bookcases? What writing did do that he couldn't see was it allowed our collective memory to increase exponentially. I do think that there are negative consequences to smart technology but, just as with Socrates, there will likely be great improvements in the knowledge and intelligence of humanity (carbon based and silicon based maybe?) in the decades and centuries to come. What will we lose and what will we gain and will it be for the better or the worse?

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2018

    One day in the future ...

    Genetically modified babies with built in computer AI enhancement available soon ...
    ... Meanwhile a blast from the past ...

    ... and Baby DJ Trump was like, build a wall ...

    and back to the present ... ;)

  • @Linc said:
    My brain works differently than a lot of folks, and that can turn into really big problems for kids that don't have so many advantages early on.

    Well, and therein lies the point I was hoping someone else would address. Nothing like being different and not fitting in to attract a lifetime of bullying, insecurity, isolation, etc. It's one thing for me to turn to a kid and say, "How do I tweet?" We can laugh at the older generation together and move on. When a sixteen year old kid has to ask their peer how to do it - well, in my neighborhood I would have been ostracized, beat up and single for the rest of my life. (If you ever saw The Fighter with Marc Walberg, I was sixteen living in that city) Anyway, maybe it's not a big deal - maybe other kids grow up where it's more accepting to be different, but 'different' gets hurt, one way or the other.

    I know I felt like a hypocrite when I set up a Christmas tree and dictated a note to Santa for my daughter, but I was worried about what would happen when she went to school and the other kids all asked, "What did you get for Christmas?" I'm not sure how I'd handle screen time as a parent today.

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