In September 2019 researchers from Norway published the results of their study to assess the association between screen usage and a child’s understanding of emotion. (Emotion understanding is generally defined as the child’s understanding of the nature, causes, and control/regulation of emotion, or as the way in which the child identifies, predicts, and explains emotion in him/herself and others.) The researchers stated the recent increase in time a child spent on screen activities had raised concerns that this may result in a reduction in face-to-face interaction, thereby leading to a reduced level in the understanding of emotions. It is already known that children’s screen activities are linked to poorer social competence and a decrease in the quantity and quality of interaction with parents and siblings. A total of 960 children, aged 4 years, were involved in the study and followed up at ages 6 and 8. Information was collected on screen time usage and their understanding of emotions assessed. Results showed that greater screen time usage at age 4 predicted a reduced level of understanding emotions at age 6. In addition, television in a child’s bedroom at age 6 predicted lower levels of understanding emotions at age 8. A further analysis revealed that girls who spent more time watching a television had lower levels of understanding emotions, but no significant effect was detected in boys. In contrast, a greater amount of time spent gaming forecasted lower levels of understanding emotions in boys, and not girls. The researchers concluded that face-to-face interaction is required for young children to develop an understanding of emotions.
Skalická V et al. Screen time and the development of emotion understanding from age 4 to age 8: A community study. Br J Dev Psychol. 2019 Sep;37(3):427-443