Are ‘screens’ really damaging our children ? I’m not convinced

26 Aug

I’ve written before about the idea that electronic devices are damaging children’s development, and this week has seen the reporting of another study that seems to suggest that electronic devices are cause harm to our children. Uhls etal report in a study published in ‘Computers in Human Behaviour’ that depriving children of interaction with electronic devices improves their ability to read facial emotions.

Put simply, this study looks at a group of children in a five-day residential camp where no ‘screens’ are allowed, and finds that their ability to discern facial emotion improves after the five days of screen-denial. On the face of it this seems like an interesting finding, in that is compares with a control-group of kids not at the camp. But I’ve got real misgivings about this, as I’m not convinced that this is a genuine control group.

It seems to me that the logic of this study is that if you give participants five days of practice at X (using the time that they would usually be engaged in Y), then performance on X will improve after five days. In this case X is face-to-face interaction and Y is ‘screen time’. I’m not clear why the cause of the improved performance is the five days of practice, rather than the denial of screen time.

If you truly wanted to test the hypothesis that the issue lays with the ‘screens’ would you not want to replace ‘screen time’ with some other solitary activity (i.e. reading a book). Of course, the conclusion that reading a book damages the ability to read facial emotions might not be quite the one people are looking for.

These sorts of study seem to be to be a great example for slightly more advanced students, in that they need to apply their rational thinking skills to seemingly plausible stories, rather than one’s that intuitively seem flawed.

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2 Responses to “Are ‘screens’ really damaging our children ? I’m not convinced”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. This week’s interesting links… | UEL Library – Psychology Blog - September 12, 2014

    […] comprehension of nonverbal emotional cues” (you can read the full paper here). However, as Ian Wells points out, the research may not actually indicate what the researchers seem to conclude. It’s a good […]

  2. Suddenly, looking at ‘screens’ might actually be good for you. | Teaching Rational Thinking - September 17, 2014

    […] couple of weeks ago I wrote about the spate of reports that computer screens are addling the brains of teenagers. Imagine my delight to this week come across a paper saying that playing video games and watching […]

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