A new study recently published in The Communication Review has left parents everywhere scratching their heads. According to the findings, limiting your kids' screen time may have a negative consequence on their academic performance in college.
Researchers from the University of Zurich analyzed 1,100 college freshmen from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. They found that those whose parents limited their interactions with smartphones and tablets for fear it would distract them from homework and other reasons did not perform as well academically as their peers whose screen time was limited for a different reason or not limited at all.
Surprisingly, a parent's reasoning for limiting screen time seems to matter. Parents of girls would often cite safety reasons, whereas parents of boys would center their argument on "wasting time." Interestingly, students whose parents cited health reasons for restricting their kids' screen time, like "[getting more] exercise, eye overstrain, or poor sitting posture in front of the computer" actually performed better academically.
Eszter Hargittai, one of the study's co-authors, explains that the reason parents give is more important than they think.
"We were able to show that the socio-demographic and family context influences how rules get justified by parents and that the reasons stated for imposing those rules can in turn exert an impact on later-life academic success."
While researchers don't have a definitive reason for this correlation, she understands that the screen time limits parents set are well-intended.
"Parents normally set these rules to promote their children's scholastic development and to make sure that they invest enough time in schoolwork," said Hargittai. "But that evidently can also backfire."
Although the CDC has pretty hard-and-fast recommendations when it comes to screen time — usually between one and two hours per day, depending on the age — Hargittai thinks that parents should keep an open dialogue with kids about screen time. And that could even mean using smartphones and tablets together in an educational way.
"That's why it's important for parents to proactively discuss the use of modern technologies with their children and to take the particularities of different applications into account, she said, adding that: "Certain games, for example, can help to develop strategic thinking and analytical skills. That's a really practical way for parents to explain the benefits and drawbacks to children in a straightforward manner."