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'Goldilocks Zone' Exists for Teens' Screen Time

New study finds there's a window of time spent on gadgets that can be beneficial
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2017 8:11 AM CST

(Newser) – Tapping away on computers, smartphones, and other devices a few hours a day can have beneficial effects on children, a new study found. Despite hand-wringing among experts that kids are spending too much time in a virtual world, the latest research out of Oxford concludes that "moderate engagement … is not harmful," the BBC reports. Researchers who analyzed the on-screen time reported by 120,000 British 15-year-olds concluded beneficial effects include enhanced creativity and communication skills, the Telegraph reports. How much is too much? The "Goldilocks" zone by device, in weekday use:

  • Computer: four hours, 17 minutes
  • Smartphones: one hour and 57 minutes
  • Video games: one hour, 40 minutes
  • Watching TV and films: three hours, 41 minutes.

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The "modern use of digital technology is not intrinsically harmful and may have advantages in a connected world," researcher Dr. Andrew Przybylski tells the paper. But his study in the journal Psychological Science didn't measure whether kids' physical health was damaged by time spent on devices, or the cumulative effect of several devices. Researchers agreed that using devices to avoid exercise or social interactions was not good. Previous research has found that too much time on devices can shrink kids' brain, hype them up, and disrupt sleep, notes the Telegraph. Przybylski was among a group of experts who signed an open letter in the Guardian last week disputing a plea issued by other experts urging policymakers take action against excessive screen time they said was hurting kids. (Experts scrap "no screen time under age 2" rule.)

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