Monday, 11 May 2015

Chatting about screen time on WeSpeechies - Monday

Today on WeSpeechies we have been getting an idea of the issues surrounding screen use and child development, health and wellbeing.  I am collating references and will provide them and more analysis in due course but some key themes are emerging:

  1. There is a large body of opinion based articles in circulation.  This is prevalent in the mainstream press (e.g. Washington Post, Guardian) and blogosphere but does also extend into the grey literature (e.g. Christakis, 2011).  The first stage when approaching the literature on child screen use, therefore, is teasing apart opinion from evidence.  This doesn't mean opinion = bad, evidence = good.  There may be good reasons for forming opinion and opinion clearly highlights evidence of concern.  The more explicit the reasons are for the concern or opinion, however, the better.  Conversely, evidence from peer reviewed studies may be also subject to biased opinion, so just because something has been peer reviewed it doesn't make it failsafe.
  2. Where research has been cited there is a fair amount of misrepresentation. The most common example of this is where associations (e.g. such as found in correlation or regression analysis) are cited to argue that screen use is a causal factor for a negative outcome.  However, another example of misrepresentation is where a research outcome is used to make a generalisation beyond the context of the original research.  An example of this is an article that uses the negative  association between aggressive video games in older children to justify a ban on iPad use for children under the age of 2 years as cited in this Huffington Post article.
  3. Much research is based on associations.  Understanding associations is informative as a potential risk is highlighted, however, causality has not been found.  As highlighted in many other areas of psychology research, the direction of causality is not determined in association studies, or indeed a third, unexamined causal factor may be responsible for the findings in the study reported.  Furthermore, the methodological approach, particularly concerning regression analysis needs to be examined in studies as it may be flawed.  A case of this was reported by Susan Rvachew, here.
Considering the above factors, it is clear from the chat today and the articles cited that there are some concerns around screen use.  Several studies, including this ASHA survey and also this study by Common Sense Media have shown that access to and use of screen based technology has increased. These concerns are justified to varying degrees (some have more evidence to support them than others) and include associations with opportunity loss (e.g. lost opportunity for parent to child interaction), poor outcomes for sleep, obesity risks, and psychological wellbeing.  There are also some concerns highlighted over cognitive and language development but there is less evidence of associations here. This needs further analysis and I'm keen to get the information out to those interested, so for the time being please see links below to the studies highlighted today.  Feel free to comment on them!

Infant and mother play in the presence of television

Overall media exposure and lang dev at 14 months

2004 hours of television exposure associated with attention difficulties

Screen time associated with psychological wellbeing regardless of activity

Problematic videogame use related to psychological wellbeing but not activity

Avoidant attachment and psychopathology predicts internet addiction

5 days at camp with no screens

Gaming and psychosocial adjustment

Metaanaylis on violent and prosocial video game use effects (there is one)

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