Recent research spanning over two decades has revealed significant alterations in children's brain function due to time spent on electronic devices such as televisions and computers. This comprehensive study, involving nearly 30,000 participants under the age of 12, was conducted through the analysis of 33 neuroimaging research pieces and published in the peer-reviewed journal Early Education and Development.
The researchers, including teams from the Education University of Hong Kong, Shanghai Normal University, and Macquarie University, focused on how digital activity affects brain plasticity during crucial developmental stages. Notably, the study found changes in various parts of the brain, including the pre-frontal cortex, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and occipital lobe. These areas are responsible for functions like memory, language, executive skills, and processing sensory information.
The findings indicate that screen time can have both positive and negative impacts on cognitive development. Negative effects were observed in areas related to attention, executive control, cognitive processes, and functional connectivity. In contrast, some studies within the research indicated that digital experiences could enhance certain brain functions, such as cognitive skills and executive functions, particularly through activities like video gaming.
Despite these findings, the research team, led by Chair Professor Hui Li and Dr. Dandan Wu, advises against setting strict screen time limits due to potential conflicts. Instead, they call for innovative, friendly, and practical strategies to guide children's digital use. They emphasize the role of policymakers in providing resources and incentives for creating digital interventions that promote positive brain development.
The study also acknowledges its limitations, noting the evolving nature of this research area and the need for more in-depth investigations, including longitudinal studies, to understand the specific impacts of various types of digital equipment and modes of use.