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Limit Your Child's Media Use?

When the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a massive shift to online learning, it was clear that students would be spending much more time in front of screens than they had in the classroom.

However, before the arrival of the pandemic, debate was raging as to the potentially harmful effects of excessive screen time on students' health.

A growing body of research suggests that any more than a couple of hours in front of a screen can have a damaging impact on the brain – particularly when it comes to cognitive functions.

A recent study examined the impact that TV and computer use have on the learning outcomes of students aged 8 and 9.

Lisa Mundy, a Research Fellow at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, said, "We found children who watched TV two hours per day at 8 and 9 years of age performed lower in reading two years later compared with children who had watched little TV.  This was equivalent to the loss of a third of a year in learning”.

The study found that children who used a computer for at least one hour per day had a similar loss in numeracy scores two years later compared with their peers. There was no association between computer use and reading.

The researchers pointed out that before the pandemic, electronic media use was already the most popular leisure-time activity for 7 to 18 year old’s, but the pandemic has meant children now spend around 50% more time with screens.

For parents, a family media plan is a valuable tool to set limits on use, rules around when and where devices can be used, and help a child select quality content where they are more actively engaged.

Electronic media can become tools to create, connect and learn, bringing great benefits. However, where electronic media takes on merely a childminding role, poorer health, social and emotional development, and learning seem likely to follow.