For Immediate Release: November 1, 2017
A Call for Research on Growing Health Issue: Children and Screen Time
Pediatrics Journal Releases First-Ever Supplement Dedicated to Effects of Digital Media on Children
As the iPhone turns 10, screen time—and lots of it—has changed reality for today’s kids, and even babies. Teens (ages 13-18) spend an average of 9 hours each day on entertainment media use, excluding time spent at school or for homework, and tweens (ages 8-12) spend just under 6 hours per day. Even a majority of toddlers spend more than an hour each day in front of a digital screen. Yet despite its omnipresence, digital media’s effects on childhood development, including cognitive, psychological, social, behavioral and physical developmental impacts, remain largely unknown. Parents today navigate unchartered waters on issues from cyberbullying to internet addiction, while experts are only beginning to ask, let alone answer, questions about the unintended consequences of our daily digital diet.
“The vast majority of existing research on children's digital media use has focused on the maladaptive side of media use. Research is needed to uncover how, where, when, and for whom digital media use can support positive well-being,” said Linda Charmaraman, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.
Dr. Charmaraman collaborated with scholars from Harvard Graduate School of Education, University of Washington, Indiana University, Vienna University of Technology, and University of Minnesota to write a state of the field article for the first-ever special supplement to Pediatrics Journal on children and digital media use, sponsored by the interdisciplinary non-profit, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development. Their article examines complex digital media use factors that inform outcomes related to youth well-being, social connectedness, empathy, and narcissism.
To celebrate the release of the Pediatrics Journal special supplement, pediatric media experts, researchers and policymakers gathered at an event hosted by Children and Screens to discuss what we know, and what we still need to learn, about the relationship between kids and screens—while offering policy recommendations and practical guidelines for policymakers, clinicians, educators and parents.
“The digital media landscape is evolving so quickly, we need our research to catch up just to answer some basic questions,” said Dr. Pam Hurst-Della Pietra, Founder of Children and Screens. “How can we make the digital media environment better for kids? Does it matter that we’ve become a society that talks to one another less and makes less frequent eye contact? What are the implications of requiring middle-schoolers to have iPads for school use? We can’t wait a generation to learn the impacts of a technological revolution that’s happening as we speak (or don’t, as the case may be).”
The panel hosted by Children and Screens was moderated by Amy Joyce, the editor for Washington Post’s “On Parenting” section.
“Policymakers have a critical role to play in ensuring that we can properly fund research on the relationship between children and digital media,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). “The last time significant legislation on children and digital media was raised in Congress, the iPhone had barely come to market. The world is completely different now, and we need to update our laws and our research to reflect those changes.”
Children and Screens -- an independent, interdisciplinary nonprofit organization seeking objective, scientific, fundamental insights into children's engagement with digital media -- is bringing together diverse stakeholders to answer these pressing questions.
Other panelists included Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, Director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute and Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington; Kathryn Montgomery, PhD, Founder, Center for Media Education; Director of Communications Studies, American University; Ellen Wartella, PhD, Professor of Communication, Northwestern University, Co-Principal Investigator, Children’s Digital Media Center; and Dr. Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Associate Director of the Children's Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles (UCLA/CSULA), Director of the Media and Language Lab at Cal State LA.
An online copy of the report can be found on November 1st at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/supplemental