Quebec study | More screens, more dropouts, less love

Preteens who had a computer or television in their room in 2010 had lower grades five years later and a higher risk of dropping out, according to a new Quebec study. They had also found love less often.

“A screen in the bedroom, whatever it is, is associated with negative consequences,” says Linda Pagani, of the University of Montreal, who is the lead author of the study published in February in a journal of Health Canada. “Our data concerns the last generation before the omnipresence of smartphones. They show that their excessive use among today’s children must be discouraged. »

The 1,300 children were followed from their birth in 1998. In 2010, they were 12 years old. The impact of screens in the bedroom at 12 years old was measured in 2015, when these children were 17 years old. The researchers’ statistical calculations do not allow us to quantify the increase in prevalence of dropping out, or other negative impacts of screens.

“The government should consider advertising to increase public awareness of the importance of removing screens from the bedrooms of children and young adolescents to favor use in common spaces,” adds co-author Benoit Gauthier, who made this analysis as part of his doctorate. “Children today are exposed to all kinds of content that is not appropriate for their age. If they are in common places, their parents can talk about it with them. »


The only difference between the sexes was that boys who had a screen in their room at age 12 showed less kindness and empathy at age 17 and shared less with others. This “prosociability” was not affected in girls because of social models favoring these character traits, according to Mme Pagani. It was assessed using seven questions such as “When someone made a mistake, I felt sorry for them.”


Linda Pagani

Just under half of 12-year-olds had a TV or computer in their bedroom. Surprisingly, there was no difference between the two, even though a computer can be used for school work. “We did a preliminary analysis and saw that there was no difference, so we grouped the two,” says Mr. Gauthier.

Even for girls, less inclined to play computer video games? “It’s true that boys play more games, but at the time there were already social networks, so we think that computers weren’t used that much for school work,” says Mme Pagani.

Wasn’t a screen in the bedroom at 12 years old in 2010 a sign of overly permissive parents, rather than a negative impact of screens as such? “There are indeed studies which show negative effects of too much permissiveness on the part of parents, but our data shows that screens have a very real effect,” replies Mr. Gauthier.

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  • 76%
    Proportion of 17-year-old boys who had a romantic relationship in the last 12 months in 2015

    SOURCE: Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada

    Proportion of 17-year-old girls who had a romantic relationship in the last 12 months in 2015

    SOURCE: Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada


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