Limiting Your Kids' Screen Time May Cause Them To Do Worse In College

kids watching TV

A new study suggests that limiting your children’s screen time might be doing them more harm than good. As a matter of fact, new research claims that putting a time limit on your children’s electronic devices might have long lasting negative effects and might even cause them to perform poorly during their college years.

Researchers at the University of Zurich analyzed over 1,000 college freshman from different sociaeconmic backgrounds. The research found that parents who limited their children’s access to smart phones, tablets and other electronic devices did not perform as well as those students who didn’t have any limitations at all.

Of course, parents have many reasons as to why they prefer to keep their children’s time in front of the screen, ranging from a lack of physical activity and the rising rates of childhood obesity to safety concerns. A lot of parents also feel that their children are simply “wasting their time” in front of screens, when they could be doing more productive activities or something more beneficial to their education.

The study’s co-author Eszter Hargittai, says that the more parents enforce strict rules on their children, the less of a chance that they will succeed academically later in life.

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She explains, "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. Parents normally set these rules to promote their children's scholastic development and to make sure that they invest enough time in schoolwork.”

boy on tablet playing game
Credit: iStock / AndreyPopov

But Ms. Hargittai adds there’s evidence that putting limitations on your children’s electronic devices can backfire. She encourages parents to have an open discussion with their children over the pros and cons of tablet and screen time. Considering how today’s younger generation is now living in an increasingly electronically connected world, she argues that smart phones and tablets can benefit a child’s education in a positive way, too.

Ms. Hargittai further added, “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."

At the same time though, parents are also encouraged to pick out any signs of their child’s behavioral changes while making sure that the free screen time doesn’t get too excessive. If this is the case, parents should encourage other activities such as play time, arts and crafts, and sports.

Parents can also make more of an effort to be involved in their children’s lives, play with their kids, or simply set better examples themselves. This can be anything from not using a smart phone at the dinner table, having electronic-free weekends, or simply putting a tablet down to focus more on quality time with the family.

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