Screen time: there are worse things for children's IQ

Screens are bad for children's development

Screen time: there are worse things for children's IQ

Screens are bad for children's development. Everyone says it... Except that the reality is much more complex and nuanced. It would above all be the context in which the youngest are exposed to it which would have the most influence, and not the time of exposure, as is often asserted. This is shown by the study just published, in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, by the Inserm team led by Jonathan Bernard from the Center for Research in Epidemiology and Statistics (Cress).

This work was carried out on more than 18,000 children aged 2 to 5 and a half years. Parents scrupulously recorded the time spent in front of the TV, on smartphones, tablets, playing video games, and other screens. First result: there is indeed a negative effect of exposure to screens on the cognitive development of children. It corresponds to an IQ (intelligence quotient) difference of 2 points for daily screen time of 4 hours in children aged 3 and 5. “But this effect is modest, especially when we look at all the factors that are linked to the family environment,” explains Jonathan Bernard.

It is especially language that is affected. The researchers actually assessed the impact of television when it was on during meals, which was the case for 41% of 2-year-old children. In this context, the data reveal a significant language gap equivalent to 1.5 IQ points between those who watch TV during the meal and those who do not. “This may seem low on an individual level. But on the scale of a generation, if we assume that no child watches TV during meals, 8,000 of them could then pass above the threshold of 85 IQ points, considered a below-average development threshold,” adds Jonathan Bernard. Mealtime being an important time for verbal exchanges between children and parents, television would have a disruptive effect on learning.

These results lead us to review the discourse on the effects of screens on children's development. Today, he focuses on the exposure time, when it seems that it is the context that plays a greater role.