As a follow up to my recent post about technology and screen time, here’s a new study from Oxford that suggests that the affects of screen time are more nuanced than previously thought:
The possible influence of digital screen engagement is likely smaller and more nuanced than we might expect.
Two recent studies, one focused on British adolescents and another with young American children, indicate that the relations between digital screen engagement and psychosocial outcomes are nonlinear. The idea that parabolic function links digital engagement to mental well-being, dubbed the “Goldilocks hypothesis,” has received some empirical support. Briefly, moderate levels of digital screen time (1−2 hours a day) may be associated with slightly higher levels of key outcomes compared to engagement at either lower or higher levels. Although this hypothesis makes intuitive sense, as many apps and digital technologies are useful for informing and connecting young people, results have not uniformly supported it. Where research has identified parabolic trends, the average correlates of positive or negative digital engagement found in this previous research are very small, accounting for less than 1% of variability in child outcomes.
In other words, although many of these relations are statistically significant, more than 99% of variability in psychosocial outcomes is unrelated to digital engagement. This pattern of results highlights a disconnect between the statistically significant relations identified in the literature and relations that could be understood as relevant to caregivers, policymakers, or health professionals. This gap undermines effective evidence-based mental health policymaking for children in the digital age.