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Study finds media screen time for preschoolers not a detriment for their development

A student on an ipad in the classroom
Columbus Neighborhoods

A new Ohio State University study finds that despite parents' fears, daily screen time on tech devices will not severely harm the development of their preschoolers.

The study, published in the journal Translational Issues in Psychological Science examined preschoolers from 179 low-income families in Columbus and other parts of Ohio.

“I think the most striking finding from the study is that in general, over all of the different ways we measured children's academic development and all of the measures of screen time, children's academic skills showed very little relation with media use, quantity, timing, content or context,” says Rebecca Dore, lead author of the study and Director of Research at The Ohio State University’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy.

Dore says the families kept time diaries of their preschoolers’ use of social media for a 24-hour period.

On average, Dore says the preschoolers used about two hours of screen time a day. The children’s language, literacy and math skills, as well as social and behavioral skills were assessed twice at their preschools during the school year. Dore says the results showed no significant effects of screen use time on the academic skills assessed in the study.

"I think this is really important, because it suggests that efforts, you know, societal and practitioner efforts to aim to minimize media use among these families may be better directed towards evidence-based efforts for reducing the barriers associated with living in poverty that families with young children experience that we know can really affect their outcomes,” says Dore.

Dore says parents need to stop demonizing media use in their households and society in general. She thinks it would be more beneficial to think about how we can use media in more positive ways to support children’s development.

"I do worry that parents focusing on that one hour a day guideline and how horrible it is that they've given their child 30 minutes of media use while they make dinner, are beating themselves up and creating unnecessary stress and guilt,” says Dore.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.