Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Chatting about screen use on @WeSpeechies - Tuesday - Chat overview

Yesterday I moderated the 55th @WeSpeechies chat, an hour long online discussion (on Twitter) focussed on a topic of interest to the speech and langauge therapy / pathology profession.  This week, as you may have seen from my previous blogposts the focus is on child screen use, child development and our professional responsibilities in this area.  The chat, but also about my experience of moderating the chat covers two areas of interest for me: the topic (screen use and child development) and the forum (new ways of communicating evidence).  I'll focus on the topic today but I will blog about the chat as a communication tool along with my experience of curating @WeSpeechies in due course, so watch this space!

The topic - Screen time and child development: Exploring the impact of audiovisual and interactive screens from all angles

Some great photos were tweeted around this topic, including photos of i-potties, i-walkers, ipads in cots.  The most endearing was this:

The chat was based around four questions that focussed on speech and langauge therapists' responsibilities concerning this topic.  The questions were as follows:

Q1 What do #wespeechies need to consider when advising clients and the public on screen use & child development?

Q2 Need #wespeechies incorporate information on child screen use into our assessment and treatment of children and adolescents?

Q3 What are the benefits & risks of #wespeechies using screen based technology in clinical practice?  Do we relay these to children/parents?

Q4 How do you access information about screen based technology, child development and clinical praactice? #wespeechies

You can read a transcript of the entire chat here.  Several factors were highlighted in response to the questions and I will discuss four here with my own reflections.

1:  Focus on the positives and gauge client opinion
First, there was some agreement that when advising clients it would be preferable to focus on positive behaviours (such as interaction) rather than taking a restrictive stance on screen use/screen time.  I would extend this to factors for which screen time is found to be associated with (but not as yet to cause), including sleep and pyschological wellbeing. This is partly due to the limited evidence surrounding screen use and negative outcomes, partly to facilitate a positive working relationship with clients and partly to enable the positive features of technology to be embraced where appropriate.  Comments from Susan Rvachew proposed that by gauging the client's or parent's own views towards screen use we can tailor our services to best meet their needs:

2:  Screen technology resonates with and works for many young people
The second factor that was highlighted was the potential benefits of some screen based apps for children with communication difficulties.  For example, some reported positive progress using apps for children with social communication difficulties.  Also, a study by Durkin et al (2010) was tweeted, which demonstrated benefits of computer mediated communication for children with communication needs. There was agreement that a benefit of incorporating screen technology was that it could resonate with young children but a potential disadvantage may be that the activities recommended might displace other activities.  It was noted, however, that strategies such as parent to child interaction might just as reasonably be incorporated into an activity involving smart devices.

3: Children are the teachers
The third factor that I want to reflect on in this blogpost, and which resonated strongly with me was the extent to which we can learn from young people about screen based technology.  Several tweeters acknowledged that children and young people know so much about screen technology and parents and adults are spending most of their time just 'catching up.' This phenomenon has been described in the literature in terms of children and young people being 'digital natives' and their parents 'digital immigrants' (Christakis 2001).  Some really interesting thoughts about engaging young people as tutors on computer mediated communication were raised, let's hope some interesting research follows!

4: Screen based technology is a source for our own professional development
Fourth and final, the source of advice for professionals varied from asking around, using twitter and getting information from young people, as stated above.  There doesn't currently appear to be a forum for professionals to share or get advice.  My own experience is that Twitter and handles such as @WeSpeechies are a great starting point for sharing information.  I also hope that by blogging I can share my own reflections and hopefully encourage others to do the same.

The hour went so quickly and we have only scratched the surface of this topic.  If you have a thought or comment on any of the chat questions or on this blog, please do share your thoughts either in the comments section below or on Twitter with me @clarrysmith and with @WeSpeechies.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Chatting about screen time on WeSpeechies - Monday

Today on WeSpeechies we have been getting an idea of the issues surrounding screen use and child development, health and wellbeing.  I am collating references and will provide them and more analysis in due course but some key themes are emerging:

  1. There is a large body of opinion based articles in circulation.  This is prevalent in the mainstream press (e.g. Washington Post, Guardian) and blogosphere but does also extend into the grey literature (e.g. Christakis, 2011).  The first stage when approaching the literature on child screen use, therefore, is teasing apart opinion from evidence.  This doesn't mean opinion = bad, evidence = good.  There may be good reasons for forming opinion and opinion clearly highlights evidence of concern.  The more explicit the reasons are for the concern or opinion, however, the better.  Conversely, evidence from peer reviewed studies may be also subject to biased opinion, so just because something has been peer reviewed it doesn't make it failsafe.
  2. Where research has been cited there is a fair amount of misrepresentation. The most common example of this is where associations (e.g. such as found in correlation or regression analysis) are cited to argue that screen use is a causal factor for a negative outcome.  However, another example of misrepresentation is where a research outcome is used to make a generalisation beyond the context of the original research.  An example of this is an article that uses the negative  association between aggressive video games in older children to justify a ban on iPad use for children under the age of 2 years as cited in this Huffington Post article.
  3. Much research is based on associations.  Understanding associations is informative as a potential risk is highlighted, however, causality has not been found.  As highlighted in many other areas of psychology research, the direction of causality is not determined in association studies, or indeed a third, unexamined causal factor may be responsible for the findings in the study reported.  Furthermore, the methodological approach, particularly concerning regression analysis needs to be examined in studies as it may be flawed.  A case of this was reported by Susan Rvachew, here.
Considering the above factors, it is clear from the chat today and the articles cited that there are some concerns around screen use.  Several studies, including this ASHA survey and also this study by Common Sense Media have shown that access to and use of screen based technology has increased. These concerns are justified to varying degrees (some have more evidence to support them than others) and include associations with opportunity loss (e.g. lost opportunity for parent to child interaction), poor outcomes for sleep, obesity risks, and psychological wellbeing.  There are also some concerns highlighted over cognitive and language development but there is less evidence of associations here. This needs further analysis and I'm keen to get the information out to those interested, so for the time being please see links below to the studies highlighted today.  Feel free to comment on them!

Infant and mother play in the presence of television

Overall media exposure and lang dev at 14 months

2004 hours of television exposure associated with attention difficulties

Screen time associated with psychological wellbeing regardless of activity

Problematic videogame use related to psychological wellbeing but not activity

Avoidant attachment and psychopathology predicts internet addiction

5 days at camp with no screens

Gaming and psychosocial adjustment

Metaanaylis on violent and prosocial video game use effects (there is one)

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Chatting about screen use on WeSpeechies

This week I am the lighthouse keeper on @WeSpeechies, a twitter handle for those interested in issues to do with the speech and language profession.  WeSpeechies is focussing on a topic I have been interested for some time - the debate around children's use of screen based technology and child health, wellbeing and development.  It's a topic that arouses much opinion so I think it will be keeping me busy!

To find out more about WeSpeechies you can read about them here.  To find out specifically about this week look here.  For this page I have written a background to the week with editing support from WeSpeechies founders Caroline Bowen @speech_woman and Bronwyn Hemsley @BronwynHemsley.  For ease I have copied it below.  Just 2 hours after taking over as lighthouse keeper the debate around this issue is well underway, and I'll update this blog with a summary of issues raised throughout the week.  There'll also be a twitter chat on this issue on Tuesday 12th May from 8.00-9.00pm Brtish Summer Time.  Tune in and get involved!

Topic: Screen time and child development: Exploring the impact of audiovisual and interactive screens from all angles

There is no doubt that we live in a time of rapid technological advances. Travelling on a London Underground train recently, I estimated that around 70% of passengers were using smartphones. The screen has exploded out of cinemas and living room TVs and into people’s back pockets. In addition, small screen based technology has provided a platform for many other uses, including, but not limited to social networking, audio-visual communication (such as Skype and Facetime), education and gaming.
The widespread adoption of the small screen is said to be changing behaviours (Ley, et al., 2014) and questions have been raised about the effects of screen time on child development (Ebbeck, et al., 2015). This is no new phenomenon; indeed the effect of the television on children’s development was questioned by Meerloo, back in 1956. Concern was raised in 2005 when a UK survey reported 20% of young children had a television in their bedrooms. Nowadays, many children have regular access to up to five screen based devices in their own homes (Kesten, et al., 2015).
Over the years screen use has been reported to be associated with both a range of positive and negative developmental outcomes. Across the research to date, the variety of aspects examined obviously makes it impossible to generalise findings from different studies to all screens, all media and all user behaviour.  None-the-less, certain trends emerge.
There are of course advantages associated with the availability and use of screen technology for communication, learning, and social connectedness. Applications have been developed to support child development, and social media platforms may facilitate networking for children with their peers, families, and many other people. By contrast, there are potential risks to children’s privacy, safety and mental health that may result from unsupervised use of Internet based apps on the small screen (Broughton, 2005).
As speech-language professionals, we face many decisions about how much to recommend or use ‘screens’ in our work with children and families. We must take account of all of the evidence, not only the representations made in the mainstream media. On @WeSpeechies this week, I will challenge all taking part in discussions, and reading along, to consider the role of speech-language professionals in providing reliable advice to parents on screen use and how we might adopt screen use in our own clinical practice.
BROUGHTON, D. D. 2005. Keeping kids safe in cyberspace: Pediatricians should talk to patients, parents about Internet dangers. AAP News, 26, 11-12.
EBBECK, M., YIM, H. Y. B., CHAN, Y. & GOH, M. 2015. Singaporean parents’ views of their young children’s access and use of technological devices. Early Childhood Education Journal. ABSTRACT
KESTEN, J. M., SEBIRE, S. J., TURNER, K. M., STEWART-BROWN, S., BENTLEY, G. & JAGO, R. 2015. Associations between rule-based parenting practices and child screen viewing: A cross-sectional study. Preventive Medicine Reports, 2, 84-89.
LEY, B., OGONOWSKI, C., HESS, J., REICHLING, T., WAN, L. & WULF, V. 2014. Impacts of new technologies on media usage and social behaviour in domestic environments. Behaviour & Information Technology, 33, 815-828. ABSTRACT
MEERLOO, J. A. M. 1956. Technology invades our minds. The rape of the mind: The psychology of thought control, menticide, and brainwashing. Cleveland, OH, US: The World Publishing Company.