Does the use of screen media affect the brain’s development?

PC, Smarphone und Co.: Wie beeinflussen sie die Hirnentwicklung? PC, Smarphone und Co.: Wie beeinflussen sie die Hirnentwicklung?

Some neuroscientists, including Manfred Spitzer, say that smartphones dumb children down and are calling for a ban under the age of 18. But media educators don’t see this as the solution.

A recent study from the USA has attracted the attention of mobile phone opponents across the world: children who spend more than seven hours a day sitting in front of smartphones or tablets have a thinner brain cortex, the area that processes information from the five senses.

However, it would be incorrect to conclude from this that the use of screen media shrinks children's brains, scientists say. The thinning of the cortex is part of a child’s normal development, and in the children studied it just occurred a little earlier. Whether media use is indeed responsible would require further research.

Mobile phones damage the brain – this is something German brain researcher Manfred Spitzer has been warning against for years. Some damage is irreparable: myopia, for example. Spitzer is calling for smartphones to be allowed from the age of 18 only.

Rules of use

«A ban is no solution,» says Priska Dabkowska, head of the media skills programme at Pro Juventute. It's more important to learn how to manage digital media and to support children in the process. The general guideline is: no television under the age of three, no personally-owned game console under the age of six, and social media from the age of 12 only. Finally: no own smartphone before the age of 11. It is also important to agree screen-viewing times with your child – and make sure that this is adhered to.

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