In recent decades, digital technology has developed at an exponential speed, computers have evolved to small handheld sizes and cell phones have developed to small-sized can fit into a pocket, along with the availability and extensive usage of the Internet, both of which cause a phenomenon that children spend increasingly more time watching a screen. Screen time is not only the amount of time spent on television viewing but also means time spent on smartphones, computers as well as different digital devices.(Montagni, Guichard, &Tobias,2016; DeWeese,2015)
A high screen time exposure may lead to negative consequences for children’s physical and mental health have been investigated. The impact of long screen time can lead to obesity (Banks E, Jorm L, Rogers K, et al. 2011), sleep deprivation, (Kremer et al., 2012), anxiety, and depression (Maras D, Flament MF, Murray M, et al. 2015)
“attention means that people are able to sustain attention which then allows us to engage in a task for long enough to repeatedly practice it”. .https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/attention-and-concentration/.Roda(2011) stated that attention enables people to pursue goals without being distracted and school-aged children may need satisfied academic outcomes. Therefore, attention is vital to children’s learning performance because “few constructs have a more direct impact on children’s academic achievement than their ability to pay attention in the classroom” (Trentacosta & Izzard, 2007,p. 78).
There have been multiple studies that found attention associated with academic performance. A particularly remarkable predictor of academic achievement (Dally, 2006; Grills-Taquechel, Fletcher, Vaughn, Denton, & Taylor, 2013), poor attention skills predicted lower reading and mathematics outcomes for children with ADHD(Rennie, Beebe-Frankenberger, & Swanson, 2014). DuPaul et al.(2016) presented that problems with attention and impulse control can weaken academic achievement among children from preschool to fifth grade. Since “inattention” has been defined as the “failure to pay attention or take notice” (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 2002, pp. 1340). It is clear that inattention will also affect children’s learning, thus the research associated with inattention should be considered, ‘‘children who have early problems with inattention …may have particular difficulties in attending to and participating fully in the learning environment at school…’’(Massetti et al. 2008, P.409). Several studies have found a relationship between inattention and academic attainment (Merrell, Sayal, Tymms, & Kasim, 2017; Pingault et al., 2011; Tymms & Merrell, 2011). their inattention will affect their learning since the learning needs attention.
Prolonged screen time may lead to difficulties with attention (Bavelier et al., 2010; Christakis, 2011; Gentile et al., 2012; Levine & Waite, 2000; Lillard & Peterson, 2011) and academic problems are growing in children due to increased screen time exposure ( Han, Page, et al., 2010; Hancox, Milne, & Poulton, 2005; Johnson et al., 2007). The most study focused on traditional screen sources, such as excessive exposure to television related to attention problems in children. (Swing,2010; Yoo, 2004; Fleming,2012) specifically, television viewing may shorten children’s attention spans(Singer,1980; Healy, 1990) and reduces reading and concentration at later ages concentration. (Koolstra,1996; Anderson,2001) Although a couple of prior studies have found a correlation between attention and screen time (Gentile, Swing, Lim, Khoo, 2012; Levine et al., 2007; Swing, Gentile, Anderson, & Walsh, 2010), there are few studies included screen time spent on devices of personal computers, cellphones, and tablets. Hence, in this research, a variety of screen time have been considered, including the time consumed on playing video games on a computer/tablet, surfing the Internet on a tablet/computer, watching television or cartoons (movies, serials, TV programs) on a computer/tablet and using a cellphone( Montagni, Guichard, & Kurth, 2016)
Although some research has indicated that screen time increases attention issues among children, others find null effects or even benefits with greater screen time (Granic et al., 2014; Odgers, 2018; Przybylski and Weinstein, 2018; Valkenburg and Peter, 2009).
Therefore, some more research is needed to prove that screen time limits are justified and evidence of an association with how long screen time will cause attentional difficulties should be considered. The purpose of this study is to identify how long screen time affects attention and whether or not it impacts academic outcomes due to the time spent on their devices.
Long screen time was expected to show direct or indirect influences on children’s attention and may lead to academic performance. A variety of activities related to screening time was predicted to correlate with academic achievements, such as inattention. Since the available data on the negative effects of screen time exposure, evaluation of its effects among children is considered. Thus, we aimed to investigate the association of screen time exposure with attention problems. participants
The sample of students and their class teachers were recruited from 5 primary schools in Northeast China. In the study, 550(97.8%) participants identified as children, and 12(2.2%)participants identified as teachers. The participants of children were from second grade to fourth grade (second-grade(32%), third-grade(37%) , and fourth-grade(31%) ; mean age: 7.8 years, age range 7-9 years). Before conducting the study, the purpose and adequate details regarding the study were explained to the participants, they were told that their participation was voluntary and their right to withdraw at any time. They were clear that their confidentiality would be kept during the whole study. Among the participants of children, 520 (94.5%) students responded to the questionnaire, and 495 (90%) valid questionnaires were analyzed after excluding those with incomplete information.
Material and procedure
Data collection was based on the questionnaire. teacher-report questionnaires were designed with closed-ended questions and student-report questionnaires were designed with open-ended and closed-ended questions in order to measure if too much screen time is related to inattention. By utilizing this method, how much time children’s digital engagement is appropriate could be measured and examined minimizing screen time can reduce children’s inattention in the classroom. The instrument used based on the study was the Screen Time Questionnaire (STQ; Olszewski, Asar, Bogatch & Blackman,2014)
Screen time was assessed by student-report of the average time spent on the screen daily, which included watching television, using a computer, tablet, cell phone, or playing video games. As this method of measuring screen time is direct, it may be more accurate to measure actual screen time(Assessing the nature and extent of children’s screen time Belinda Lowe). The STQ was designed to measure the quantity of screen time, STQ is comprised of two sections of questions. The first section inquires about demographic information, regarding the child’s sex (male or female), age, grade (2–4), and address (urban/rural). The second section asks several items about the daily and specific use of screened devices (e.g., on average a day, how much time do you spend in front of a TV watching TV programs, videos, or playing video games? On average, how many hours of electronic device usage per day are other than school tasks?).
To summarise the time spent on screens, response choices were re-coded on an arbitrary 5-point scale (none=0, none to 30 minutes=0.5 30 minutes to one hour=1, one hour to two hours=2, two hours and more =3). The score was categorized into quartiles which were labeled ‘very low’, ‘low’, ‘high’, ‘Very high’. It is defined that if a child has high screen time if the sum across screen categories was two hours or more.
Attention problems were assessed in the sample by teacher-report. Teachers were asked to fill out a questionnaire to answer 9 items based on their observations, According to Merrell and Tymms (2001), the items in the behavior scales were almost identical to the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition).
To measure inattentive behavior in the classroom, teachers rated each student’s behavior on a 7-point Likert scale, with responses ranging from “never true” to “always true”.
- Makes careless mistakes in school work.
- Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Does not follow through with instructions, and fails to finish work.
- Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
- Is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental activity.
- Loses equipment necessary for activity e.g. pencils, books.
- Is distracted by extraneous stimuli.
- Forgetful in daily activities.
To summarise the time spent on screens, response choices were re-coded 5-point scale ( Never true&Rarely true=0, Sometimes but infrequently true&Neutral=1, Sometimes true=2, Usually true=3, Always true=4 ). The score was categorized into quintile quartiles which were labeled ‘very low’, ‘low’, ‘high’, and ‘Very high’.
Out of 550 student participants in five schools, the participants included 267 males (48.5%) and 283 females (51.5%).30 (5.5%) students did not return the questionnaire. Out of the 520 returned questionnaires, 25 were incomplete. In total, 495 questionnaires completed in all sections (including the Demographic information, Information on Screen Time) were used to analyze. All the teacher’s responses to the inattention questions. The overall prevalence of inattention was 95.2% out of the 100%valid questionnaires in this study.
At 7 years, over 27% (n = 34) of children were exposed to more than 2 hours of screen time/day while 73% of children met the Canadian recommended screen-time guidelines of less than 2 hours per day (Table 1). At 8 years, 54.3% of children met the Canadian recommended screen-time guideline of fewer than 2 hours of screen time/day. At 9 years, 37.3% of children spent more than two hours of screen time.
From this study, participants with very high screen time exposure (ie, highest quartile) tend to be older. They were less likely to be female.
Of the activity categories excluded from the study, the highest screen time was observed for watching ‘programs’(cartoons, movies, and serials), followed by ‘games’, ‘surfing the internet, and ‘social activities.
The primary purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between screen time and child inattention, We then present the proportion (95 % confidence interval [CI]) of children’s screen time and use logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (OR) for screen time.
There were 520 questionnaires to the inattention questions, the overall inattention was 76.2% out of the 496 valid questionnaires in this study. Additionally, there was a correlation between inattention and the time spent on screened devices. we found that increasing levels of screen time exposure were associated with
attention problems and hyperactivity levels. Although past research has examined time spent on screened technology, there is little if any information that includes all relevant screen time devices. This study also included screen time spent on electronic devices and new technology tools like smartphones and tablets.
The study was designed to examine the relationship between child screen time with all screened devices and the inattentive behavior of children by collecting data from teachers-report and the STQ (Olszewski et al., 2014). Screen time beyond the two-hours threshold was related to an increased risk of attention issues.
However, several limitations of this study need to be considered. Firstly, I use child self-report for collecting data on screen time, which may cause misclassification bias, because, for younger children, it may be difficult to recall their screen time. Secondly, the study reported screen time based on one device and did not consider the possibility that students can use a couple of digital devices at the same time. Hence, there would be potentially overestimating the measure of screen time exposure. Nonetheless, there is no reason to believe misclassification is directly linked to screen time.
Thirdly, our sample is restricted to students who voluntarily participated in the study and there is not an even number of female to male students, which may represent a sampling bias. Lastly, little is known about how screen time is linked to inattentional behavior, and whether screen content itself is important for inattentional behavior.
Despite these limitations, this study extends knowledge about electronic screen time affects attention problems. The study demonstrates that the risk of attention problems could be reduced if parents limit children’s exposure to screened devices to no more than 2 hours per day, which is consistent with the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines recommendation.
To ensure children are protected from harm from the use of screens, it is important that their parents are aware of healthy screen behaviors, employ strategies to teach children self-regulation, and set limited screen time.
Too much screen time means lost opportunities for teaching and learning. Since long screen time may affect children’s attention and academic performance, future studies should examine whether long-time exposure to electronic devices has potentially negative effects on mental health and behavioral development through school age. Furthermore, the development of effective strategies for the intervention of electronic devices may be required.