Vanderbilt poll: Mental health conversations are needed as children's screen time increases

The poll surveyed 1,000 Tennessee parents
Posted at 4:47 AM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 10:25:25-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you're worried your child spends too much time looking at the TV or computer, you're not alone.

The annual Vanderbilt Child Health Poll found that a good amount of Tennessee parents feel this way about screen time.

The poll surveyed more than 1,000 parents in the state on screen time and cyberbullying.

Almost half said their children spent more than two hours on non-educational screen time each day. While most parents agreed they placed limits on how much screen time their child was getting, 70% worried their kids were spending too much time.

Researchers said educational screen time can have positive effects on cognitive development, but too much use for entertainment purposes can be harmful.

"Children’s screen time can have both positive and negative impacts on their knowledge and intellectual development," said Carolyn Heinrich, PhD, Patricia and Rodes Hart professor of Public Policy, Education, and Economics at Vanderbilt University. "For example, experimental research confirms the potential for positive effects of educational screen media on children’s cognitive development; however, if screen time for entertainment displaces educational uses, especially when children are learning to read, the net effect may be harmful."

The poll also focused on cyberbullying. Social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram as well as online gaming were areas parents ranked as sources of bullying.

Experts said the results highlight the critical need for mental health conversations between parents and their children. They say it's also never been more important than now to monitor your children's online activity.

"Parents should be talking to their kids about screen time and cyberbullying," said Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy. "Most devices today allow parents to limit screen time and ensure access to only age-appropriate content. Parents are worried about screen time, and the fact that more than 1 in 10 Tennessee children have been cyberbullied means we have work to do. It’s never been more important to monitor your child’s online activity."