Nat Hum Behav. 2023 Nov 13. doi: 10.1038/s41562-023-01712-8. Online ahead of print.
The influence of electronic screens on the health of children and adolescents and their education is not well understood. In this prospectively registered umbrella review (PROSPERO identifier CRD42017076051 ), we harmonized effects from 102 meta-analyses (2,451 primary studies; 1,937,501 participants) of screen time and outcomes. In total, 43 effects from 32 meta-analyses met our criteria for statistical certainty. Meta-analyses of associations between screen use and outcomes showed small-to-moderate effects (range: r = -0.14 to 0.33). In education, results were mixed; for example, screen use was negatively associated with literacy (r = -0.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -0.20 to -0.09, P ≤ 0.001, k = 38, N = 18,318), but this effect was positive when parents watched with their children (r = 0.15, 95% CI = 0.02 to 0.28, P = 0.028, k = 12, N = 6,083). In health, we found evidence for several small negative associations; for example, social media was associated with depression (r = 0.12, 95% CI = 0.05 to 0.19, P ≤ 0.001, k = 12, N = 93,740). Limitations of our review include the limited number of studies for each outcome, medium-to-high risk of bias in 95 out of 102 included meta-analyses and high heterogeneity (17 out of 22 in education and 20 out of 21 in health with I2 > 50%). We recommend that caregivers and policymakers carefully weigh the evidence for potential harms and benefits of specific types of screen use.