Young teens should limit fun screen time to 1 hour a day

Parents should place time limits on  their children's interactive technology use, and should work with teachers to help children develop effective time management and self-regulation skills to reduce their reliance on technology. (Credit: Getty Images)

Middle-school aged children should limit their recreational screen time to no more than one hour daily on school days and four hours a day on weekends, researchers say.

A new study shows that kids who use the internet, social media, or video games recreationally for longer have significantly lower grades and test scores.

“Interactive technology is widely used to promote children’s educational access and achievement,” says lead author Vivien (Wen Li) Anthony, an assistant professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work and research associate at the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has been essential to facilitating remote learning. At the same time, there is a growing concern that excessive technology use, particularly for entertainment, may adversely affect children’s educational development by facilitating undesirable study habits and detracting from time spent on learning activities.”

The researchers analyzed the China Education Panel Survey data, a national survey of educational needs and outcomes of children in China. They surveyed and followed approximately 10,000 first-year middle school students. Their average age was 13.5 years.

The results show that children who used the internet, social media, or video games for entertainment four or more hours daily were four times more likely to skip school than those who did not. Boys used interactive technology for entertainment significantly more than girls. Boys also performed worse and showed lower school engagement levels than girls.

“Such findings are critical, particularly in light of the recent movement toward online learning in countries throughout the world,” says Anthony. “In a learning environment that integrates the internet, it is easy for children to move across educational and entertainment platforms during learning without alerting teachers or adults to alternate activities.”

Children in the study who used technology in moderation (i.e., less than one hour per day on weekends) experienced less boredom at school, potentially due to the positive effects of participation in social media, video games, and video streaming such as peer bonding and relationship building, Anthony says. Using interactive technology for entertainment in moderation advanced children’s cognitive development.

The findings suggest that parents place time limits on their children’s interactive technology use, and that parents and teachers should help children to develop effective time management and self-regulation skills to reduce their reliance on technology.

Additional coauthors of the study, published in in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, are from the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies and Renmin University of China.

Source: Rutgers University