This is another study to show that there is no quick and easy answer to the question of screen time and children. In fact, a group of researchers have come to the conclusion that quality is the most important factor rather than quantity of screen time.
You may ask what quality is in terms of screen time with the number of programmes targeted at young children and particularly those under three-years old on the rise. Screen time, probably no surprise to many, has more than doubled over the last 30 years.
These researchers from the University of Portsmouth, UK, and Paris Nanterre University, France, analysed 478 studies over the last two decades in a paper just out.
They note that “Weak narrative, fast pace editing, and complex stimuli can make it difficult for a child to extract or generalise information. But when screen content is appropriate for a child’s age, it’s likely to have a positive effect, particularly when it’s designed to encourage interaction.”
So, the first thing is that the content should be suitable. Interestingly I noticed when my children were small that they became fascinated with the TV programme Caillou — Caillou is a cartoon done very simplistically about a small kid who experienced very simple daily problems. None of the crazy stuff that some cartoons have — but the story was so simple and relatable that they loved it.
The next surprise is that watching with parents (or others) seems to be positive — especially when this supports and enables interactions and clarifications — this seems to have positive effect and help with interpretation but also on development of words and language.
This suggest that watching age suitable content with your kids and enabling clarification and interaction but also shared enjoyment, not to forget, is positive and supports development of children.
So as with many things in life — screen time is more nuanced but the simple rule is make it age appropriate, share in the experience, and still allow social interaction. It’s also probably the same with adults!