Exploring screen time myths

[Photo by soheyl dehghani on Unsplash]

Digital technologies became an integral part of most if not all aspect of our life, including communication, socialization, work, study, entertainment, and more. While we cannot imagine our life without a “screen”, we often struggle to understand the impact of this relatively new predicament on our society as a whole. Many are concerned about the impact of “screen time” on children and adolescents, but it can equally concern adults just as much.

The editorial by Etchells and colleagues (2017) in the Guardian addresses the concept of “screen time” as “simplistic and arguably meaningless”. The authors believe that there is no enough evidence to support the claim that prolonged exposure to digital screens has negative effects on individuals. Furthermore, the authors state that this simplistic approach is “inappropriate” and “damaging” when it comes to constructing policies and guidelines for parents and organizations (Etchells et al., 2017). These arguments propose an alternative view, challenging a commonly assumed belief that prolonged screen time indeed is harmful.

I do not agree with the authors’ position and find it in conflict with my beliefs. Furthermore, the authors’ view is unsubstantiated and not backed up by solid evidence. The number of high-quality research sources that support the claims about the negative effects of screen time is overwhelming. The article, used by Etchells et al. to support their point, is entitled  “Seven fears and the science of how mobile technologies may be influencing adolescents in the digital age”. The main argument of the article is that observational and correlational research is not enough to demonstrate the negative effects of screen time and requires studies that demonstrates “casual interference” (George & Odgers, 2015).

A simple search in any database will provide tons of evidence-based studies demonstrating the negative effects of “screen time” on a variety of issues, such as obesity, internet addiction, cyber addiction, smartphone overuse, addiction to virtual environment, and more. Thus, a simple search strategy using controlled vocabulary terms from MESH ( (screen time or internet usage or mobile devices or “smartphone use”) AND internet addiction) provide over 200 studies in PsycInfo database. A similar search strategy in PubMed with focus on screen time and obesity will generate 1341 results. The overwhelming evidence of the sources that study this issue demonstrates that the issue of excessive screen time poses a problem. Thus, for example, Wu et al. (2016) have provided systematic review, indicating the effects on intervention on screen time reduction. Domingues‐Montanari (2017) provides recommendations to clinicians and parents about screen time based on clinical and psychological effects of excessive screen time.  

Overall, this exercise demonstrates the importance of the critical evaluation of information, including academic sources, and the sources of the articles we read, to make sure their conclusions are consistent with research sources they cite, especially when it comes to the recommendations.

 


Domingues‐Montanari, S. (2017). Clinical and psychological effects of excessive screen time on children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health53(4), 333-338.

Etchells, P., et al. (2017, January 6). Screen time guidelines should be built on evidence, not hypeThe Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2017/jan/06/screen-time-guidelines-need-to-be-built-on-evidence-not-hype

George, M. J., & Odgers, C. L. (2015). Seven fears and the science of how mobile technologies may be influencing adolescents in the digital age. Perspectives on Psychological Science: A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 10(6), 832–851. doi:10.1177/1745691615596788
Wu, L., Sun, S., He, Y., & Jiang, B. (2016). The effect of interventions targeting screen time reduction: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 95(27), e4029. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000004029

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.