Rigorous new scientific study: Link between kids screen time and their well-being is highly overstated

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/01/15/rigorous-new-scientific-study.html


Too much screen time is bad, I seen it on the TV…


Would be interesting to see how having bug screens on windows compares.

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*Creakily wheels in puppet-show stage*

[Sockpuppets enter, stage left.]

“Well this confirms everything I suspected, so I’m going to gloat now, despite having done zero actual work to determine how true this is.”

“But, I too, also did the non-scientific work of casual observation, and this does not accord with my anecdotal observations! So I’m going to say that this study can’t be definitive, and hope that another one that accords with my view will invalidate this one.”

“Hey, just because this is a complex issue with a lot of confounding variables, it doesn’t mean that I can’t find your well-intentioned concern (which is likely based on observations around specific dynamics that would probably have me seeing the issue the same way were I exposed to them) about it annoying. I’m going to choose to see it as a form of unhealthy moralizing”

“Me? Moralizing? What about the fact that you are just using this issue as a springboard to show the world that you are clearly smarter than everyone here?”

"Look, I happen to have sock-children, and I manage their sock-pad screen time very sockficciently. Despite the fact that I’m disagreeing with you here and crowing about the results, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have the same intuition about this that you do. So clearly I’m not a complete pompous sockmunch, I’m not going to admit that I’m just behaving that way because I need to be right on the Internet! Nor am I going to admit that this issue cannot possibly be definitively decided by even a well-conducted study. "

“Well, I’m not going to accede that I too, am driven to be right on this issue despite its relative inscrutability given my lack of material means to acquire this knowledge independently from the world at large. Nor am I going to take into consideration that some of my position is emotionally driven by the fact that I’ve already acted on some assumptions that this study challenges in a way that might have hurt my kids’ feelings, and I don’t want to have turned out to be a sockhole to my kids in the past, okay?! Instead I’m going to direct my inner sockstration towards you, and you’re making it easier by being a such a pompous sockhead.”

“Well, I don’t think this conversation is going anywhere, so I’m going to tell you to fold yourself into a ball and sock yourself!”

“The feeling is mutual!”

[Socks exit, stage left and right]

*Creakily wheels out puppet-show stage*


For those who care, the data more precisely says that it doesn’t affect teens. The median age of all those who were surveyed for the study were in their teens, though data from younger children was included in some of the results. And even then, it specifies that moderate usage (which is pretty heavy still) showed no impact and only some pretty extreme use has any impact at all. It also mentions how good choices (sleeping right, eating right) make a much larger impact than policing screen time, and that there are many other things (like drug use and bullying) that has a tremendous negative effect. Fretting over screen time is investing a lot of energy without any gain.

It was pretty easy to read even though it wasn’t especially well organized.


So… pretty much the same as every other technology that has come along in my lifetime that parents thought were ruining children.

  • TV
  • Video Games
  • Portable Video Games
  • Scooters
  • Comics
  • Roller Blades
  • Smart Phones
  • Ad infinitum…

This pleases me. I fully admit I’m biased. There may be some health risks from screen time, or social media use, or whatever the fuck it is today. But I’ve spent so much time hearing about how my generation is supposed to be irreparably fucked up and spoiled, or whatever the new thing people are using to try and put us down with that find it nearly impossible to care. Outside of the occasionally desire to take out a smartphone, take a selfie with myself and my meal and post it all over the internet out of sheer spite. So anything that might make at least one person briefly shut up on the topic makes me happy. And I also do like the idea that I may not be wrong, unlike, say, meditation, which I know is good for you (though I do suspect the benefits have been over-generalized) but I’m still entirely sick of hearing about.


I have three kids who continually want screen time and a spouse who has totally bought into the ‘screentime is evil’ agenda. I want to read the original article to hopefully add some science to the debate. But … $9 to ‘rent’ the article at Nature for 48 hours, multiples of that cost to ‘buy’ it. What a crock of shit. When will the legacy scholarly publication machine’s crap business model die?

Edit: Maybe this > Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing


That’s all fine and well, but they still need to get off my lawn.


“In other news, [insert popular technology item here] has been found to not be a substitute for parenting. Also, water is wet, and fire is hot.”

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Isn’t this a bit like trying to measure the impact of electrification by looking at differential electric bills? I’m pretty sure smartphones and digital media affect adolescents at the population level…

To paraphrase then, there is a strong link between kids’ well being and kids’ well being.


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