BlackScreens PhD candidate Sumudu Mallawaarachchi recently published a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between screen time (smartphones and tablets) and various developmental domains. The domain included psychosocial, cognitive, and sleep-related development. Overall, the review found that there is mixed evidence in the literature to date, and much of the mixed findings can be attributed to both limited research so, and quite varied approaches to research in this area.
The table below has been extracted from the publication and is a nice way to see the variations in research findings for screen use in early childhood, and it’s associations with specific developmental domains. Overall, there is a trend towards negative associations, however it’s important to recognise that there are some benefits that can come from certain types of screen use. For example, there are benefits to language and literacy development.
The main takeaway messages here are that 1) we, the researchers, need to do more work in this space and work towards more consistent approaches to this area of research, and 2) you, the parents, can be pro-active in managing not just the amount of screen time your child has, but also the type. Aim for high-quality, preferably expert reviewed or recommended apps that have real developmental learning opportunities built into them rather than passive ‘time-wasters’.
It’s a tricky area to navigate, but we’ll keep working with parents to try to chart a path!