Slate published an article this month in its “Future Tense” section with that headline. The subheadline is quite provocative, asking, “The dangers linked to screen time for babies, kids, and teens are well-known. But is screen time really what’s causing them?”
The article is primarily about smartphone usage. Here’s a sample:
We know, for instance, that smartphone use is associated with depression in teens. Smartphone use certainly could be the culprit, but it’s also possible the story is more complicated; perhaps the causal relationship works the other way around, and depression drives teenagers to spend more time on their devices. Or, perhaps other details about their life—say, their family background or level of physical activity—affect both their mental health and their screen time. In short: Human behavior is messy, and measuring that behavior is even messier.
Slate author Jane C. Hu goes on to note that trying to conduct a double-blind study of screen time usage would very likely fail to meet the rigorous standards imposed by guidelines governing human subjects research. The article discusses research done at Texas Tech by Eric Ramussen and Jenny Radesky at Michigan. Interestingly enough, Radesky’s work led her to hypothesize that…
children’s temperament and behavior affected the amount of screen time they were exposed to, and screen time, in turn, affected their temperament and behavior; for a fussy toddler or preschooler, screen time might be a must to keep parents sane, but that screen time might also displace opportunities to learn self-regulation skills that would help them be less fussy over time.
In other words, it’s a two-way street.
The article is well worth a read. Here’s the link: