The effects of passive screen use on a young child's cognitive development were studied in a recent study that was published in Frontiers in Psychology.
According to its findings, screen exposure—whether from a TV or a mobile device—can be advantageous depending on the situation.
478 studies that were published in the previous 20 years were examined by researchers from the University of Portsmouth and Paris Nanterre University in France. Their research revealed that, especially for small infants, early exposure to television may be harmful to play, language development, and executive functioning.
Dr. Eszter Somogyi from the Department of Psychology at the University of Portsmouth said: “We’re used to hearing that screen exposure is bad for a child and can do serious damage to their development if it’s not limited to say less than an hour a day. While it can be harmful, our study suggests the focus should be on the quality or context of what a child is watching, not the quantity. “Weak narrative, fast pace editing, and complex stimuli can make it difficult for a child to extract or generalize information. But when screen content is appropriate for a child’s age, it’s likely to have a positive effect, particularly when it’s designed to encourage interaction.”
A parent or other adult should be present for a child to watch television, according to studies, so they may interact with them and ask them questions.
“Families differ a lot in their attitudes toward and the use of media,” explained Dr Somogyi. “These differences in the viewing context play an important role in determining the strength and nature of TV’s impact on children’s cognitive development. Watching television with your child and elaborating and commenting on what is viewed can help enhance their understanding of the content, reinforcing their learning during educational programs. “Coviewing can also contribute to the development of their conversation skills and provides children with a role model for appropriate television viewing behavior.”
The study cautions that watching TV should not take the place of other learning activities, like socialising, even though the proper kind of information can be more beneficial than harmful. Instead, it is crucial to educate parents and other adults who care for children under the age of 3 about the dangers of excessive screen use in inappropriate settings.
The researchers advise strengthening learning-promoting circumstances, like kids watching age-appropriate content under adult supervision and refraining from having a background TV or device on.
Dr. Bahia Guellaï, from the Department of Psychology at Paris Nanterre University, added: “The important ‘take-home message here is that caregivers should keep in mind new technologies. Television or smartphones should be used as potential tools to complement some social interactions with young children but not to replace them. “I think the most important challenge of our societies for future generations is to make adults and young people aware of the risk of an unconsidered or inappropriate use of screen-use. This will help in preventing situations in which screens are used as the new type of child-minding, as it has been during the pandemic lockdowns in different countries. “I am optimistic with the concept of finding an equilibrium between the rapid spread of new technological tools and the preservation of the beautiful nature of human relationships.”