Is screen time affecting your child’s academic performance? (the answer might surprise you) - Klikd

Is screen time affecting your child’s academic performance? (the answer might surprise you)

Some ask it in whispers, some are shouting it from the rooftops, some just want a quick Xanor to make the nagging question go away. But it remains we all worry, to greater and lesser degrees, how screen time is affecting how well our kids do in school? The answer might surprise you.

Some cutting-edge data around screen time use is beginning to emerge in academic literature of late. It can all feel like a bit of a snooze, so at KLIKD we have spent some time getting down to brass tacks: Firstly, let’s to revise the question – we cannot examine how screentime is affecting our children without asking that question in three separate silos.

–       How are our children’s academic skills being affected by screens

–       How are our children’s social lives being affected by screens.

–       How are our children’s psychological lives being affected by screens.

Today, we’re focusing on academics.  In a recent study, Examing profiles of US Children’s Screen Time and Associations with Academic Skills (March 2024) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17482798.2024.2327021?src=exp-la) researchers looked at how much time young children spent in front of screens, what kind of content they were watching, and whether parents were around when they used devices.

In recent years, children’s screen time (ST) has been on the rise, but there’s still much to learn about how the content and context of this screen time – like how parental presence and device type affect early academic skills. In the study of 127 four- and five-year-olds, the researchers looked into whether the educational content and context of children’s screen time, as reported intime diary interviews at age 4, could predict their academic skills at age five.

Through cluster analyses, three distinct groups of children were identified: Cluster One, with the lowest screen time and highest exposure to non-educational device use, and minimal parental presence; Cluster Two, with moderate screen time and the highest exposure to educational mobile devices, along with moderate parental presence; and Cluster Three, with the highest overall screen time, moderate exposure to educational content, and high parental presence.

Interestingly, children in Cluster Two showed significantly higher literacy skills at age five compared to their peers in Clusters One and Three. Meanwhile, children in Cluster One scored higher in spatial skills compared to those in Cluster Three. Surprisingly, the researchers didn’t find significant associations between children’s screen time and number skills.

The findings suggest that both the educational content and contextual features of screen time play important roles in predicting children’s literacy and spatial skills. This approach, focusing on specific combinations of screen time content and context, seems to offer more insight than traditional analyses that look at screen time in isolation.

Moving forward, the research highlights the need to consider both what children are watching on screens and the environment in which they’re watching it when studying the effects of screen time on early academic development.

So, as long as our kids are getting “good digital nutrition” – like educational screen time and some managed independence to explore learning apps – they’re more likely to succeed in school. But here’s the catch: Once we introduce them to social media platforms like Snapchat or Instagram, academic performance tends to drop. And then of course, parents need to step in plenty! (Check out our Damn this Device mini-workshop downloadable for you to watch in your own time. We answer all the hard questions -how much time is enough time, how to discipline around devices, how to step out the power struggle around devices …all the tough questions answered www.klikd.co.za/mini-workshop)

The online parenting tightrope is such a tricky one to navigate, but next time your little one wants to play educational games like Night ZooKeeper (a reading/writing app) or TateKids (a fun art app), ScatchJunior (a coding app) feel free to give them the green light .

Stay Connected

Sarah and Pam

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