Restrict screen time, says study using Chinese EDI

Kids are growing up with greater access to electronic devices than ever before. It’s not surprising for children to unlock an iPad before they can talk.

However, the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends no screen time for children under two; less than one hour a day for children between two and five; and no screen time at least one hour before bedtime.

With interest in screen time growing, Hong Kong researchers investigated the relationship between electronic devices in the bedroom and school readiness.

Research Summary

  • There was a link between electronic devices in children’s bedrooms and lower school readiness.
  • This link did not exist for children from high SES families and when parents restricted children’s use of the devices.
  • There was a link between unrestricted access to electronic devices in a child’s bedroom and fewer parent-child interactions.

What is the research about?

An overlooked factor in the screen time debate may be where electronic devices are in the home.

Researchers wanted to know how electronics in the bedroom and parental restrictions on these devices influenced school readiness.

What did the researchers do?

School readiness was measured with the Chinese Early Development Instrument (CEDI). A total of 556 children attending their third year of kindergarten participated.

Researchers also asked families about:

  • Ownership of electronic devices
    • Where were electronic devices?
    • Were there restrictions on their use?
  • Parent-child interaction
    • How often did parents interact with their children by: reading, drawing, singing, story-telling, discussing news, and teaching
  • How long children sleep, on average?

What did the researchers find?

About a third of the participants’ parents placed one electronic device in the child’s room. This was most often a computer. More than 80% of the families restricted their child’s use of TV, computer or game consoles. Only 71.6% restricted the use of all three devices.

Any electronic device in the bedroom was linked with worse:

  • social competence
  • emotional maturity
  • language/cognitive skills
  • communication/general knowledge

TV and game consoles in the bedroom were correlated with worse physical well-being and social competence.

Families with higher SES were less likely to place electronic devices in their children’s bedrooms. They were even less likely to allow their use without parental restrictions. Children in these families had higher school readiness scores.

screen time SES
Image courtesy of Fu et al., 2017

Restrictions on using these devices lessened the link between bedroom electronics and worse school readiness. Having unrestricted access to electronic devices in a child’s bedroom was linked with fewer parent-child interactions.

screen time restriction
Image courtesy of Fu et al., 2017

What does this research mean?

This study supports parents restricting children’s use of electronic devices, not only in the amount of time children can use them but where in the house they are located.