Tag Archives: Devices

Screen time doesn’t make kids less social, inter-generational analysis reveals

Social distancing means more time inside for our youngsters, and that also means more screen time. However, a new study suggests that this isn’t cause for much concern — young people today are just as socially skilled as those from the previous generation, it found.

Image via Pixabay.

The team compared teacher and parent evaluations of children who started kindergarten in 1998, which is around six years before the launch of Facebook with those who started school in 2010 when the first iPad debuted. According to their findings, both groups were rated similarly on interpersonal skills — such as the ability to form and maintain friendships and get along with people who are different from them. Both groups were also rated similarly for self-control, the ability to regulate one’s temper.

Kids these days

“In virtually every comparison we made, either social skills stayed the same or actually went up modestly for the children born later,” said Douglas Downey, lead author of the study and professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

“There’s very little evidence that screen exposure was problematic for the growth of social skills.”

Downey conducted the study with Benjamin Gibbs, associate professor of sociology at Brigham Young University. The idea for the study came several years ago during — of all things — an argument Downey had with his son at a pizza restaurant. They were discussing whether younger generations had poorer social skills than older ones.

“I started explaining to him how terrible his generation was in terms of their social skills, probably because of how much time they spent looking at screens,” Downey said. “[His son] Nick asked me how I knew that. And when I checked there really wasn’t any solid evidence.”

To get to the bottom of the issue, Downey used data from The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which is run by the National Center for Educational Statistics and follows children from kindergarten to the end of fifth grade. Using this data, they compared children who began kindergarten in 1998 (19,150 students) with the cohort that began kindergarten in 2010 (13,400 students).

As part of the study, each child was assessed by teachers six times during this time. They were also assessed by parents at the beginning and end of kindergarten and the end of first grade. The authors focused mostly on teacher evaluations because they are more abundant and perhaps more objective — although the results from parents were comparable, they say.

Children’s social skill did not decline between the 1998 and 2010 groups. In fact, teachers’ evaluations of children’s interpersonal skills and self-control tended to be slightly higher for those in the 2010 cohort than those in the 1998 group, Downey said. Even children in the two groups who were engaging in the most screentime showed similar development in social skills compared to those with little screen exposure, results showed.

As far as the teachers were concerned, children’s social skill did not decline between the 1998 and 2010 groups. In fact, teachers’ evaluations of children’s interpersonal skills and self-control tended to be slightly higher for those in the 2010 cohort than those in the 1998 group, Downey said. Even children in the two groups who were engaging in the most screen time showed similar development in social skills compared to those with little screen exposure, results showed.

“But even that was a pretty small effect,” Downey said. “Overall, we found very little evidence that the time spent on screens was hurting social skills for most children.”

“There is a tendency for every generation at my age to start to have concerns about the younger generation. It is an old story. The introduction of telephones, automobiles, radio all led to moral panic among adults of the time because the technology allowed children to enjoy more autonomy,” he says.

If anything, all this new technology is teaching younger generations that having good social relationships means being able to communicate successfully both face-to-face and online, Downey said.

The paper “Kids These Days: Are Face-to-Face Social Skills among American Children Declining?” has been published in the American Journal of Sociology.


Google, Intel, Qualcomm, and others stop supplying Huawei after Gov’t ban

Google announced that it is beginning to cut ties with China’s Huawei, as per the US Government’s instructions, according to Bloomberg. Google will stop selling Huawei parts it needs to manufacture smartphones and other electronics.


Image via Pixabay.

Washington considers Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese state-run telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics manufacturer, as a threat to national security. As such, the Trump Administration moved on Wednesday to bar Chinese tech companies from selling their products in the US and blacklisting Huawei, especially, from buying US components.

Whether this burgeoning trade war is needed or even if it will work, time will tell — but in the meantime, Google announced that it is complying with the Government’s decision and beginning to cut ties with the Chinese company. Although Huawei is believed to have some stockpiles of parts and components, this development could severely hamstring it in the long run. Moreover, it could have meaningful effects for users themselves, as Huawei will no longer have access to Google’s proprietary services — such as Gmail and Google Maps apps — reports AFP citing a ‘source close to the matter’. Other companies are also moving to comply with the ban.


This all stems from growing rivalries between the US and China over the past few years. Given the company’s CEO Ren Zhengfei’s army background and Huawei’s opaque culture, suspicions are mounting that the firm has links with the Chinese military and intelligence services. On Friday, this culminated in the Trump Administration blacklisting Huawei under suspicions of engaging in espionage for Beijing.

The trade ban imposed by the administration extends to U.S. software and semiconductor materials that are essential to Huawei. Although not unexpected, the ban inflicted a terrible blow to the company, which is the world’s largest provider of networking gear and second largest smartphone vendor. Huawei has been listed by the US Commerce Department among firms that American companies can only trade with if authorities grant permission.

Google, who owns the Android mobile operating system (OS), the most widely-used mobile OS out there, is already taking steps to comply with the ban. Like all tech companies, Google collaborates directly with smartphone manufacturers to ensure its systems are compatible with their devices — and amid concerns of espionage, that has to stop.

While this will definitely be felt by Huawei, other companies in the US — such as Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx, and Broadcom — might follow. All of them cutting trade with Huawei is undoubtedly a scary prospect of the Chinese company, as it directly relies on these other suppliers to function. “Intel is the main supplier of server chips to Huawei, Qualcomm provides it with processors and modems for many of its smartphones, Xilinx sells programmable chips used in networking, and Broadcom is a supplier of switching chips, another key component in some types of networking machinery”, according to Bloomberg.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google spokesperson told AFP.

On their official @Android Twitter, the comany further stated that “while we are complying with all US gov’t requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.”

So, what does this mean for consumers? In the long run, probably nothing good, but we’ll see how the situation develops. In the short term, it does mean that Google software and technical services that are not publicly available might stop working on Huawei devices. The Chinese company will only have access to the open source version of Android. Furthermore, it will need to manually access any updates or software patches from the Android Open Source Project, and also distribute the updates to users themselves. A company statement held that Huawei will “continue to provide security updates and after-sales services” to all existing smartphones and tablets globally, including those not yet sold.

“At the same time, the Chinese side supports Chinese enterprises in taking up legal weapons and defending their legitimate rights,” said Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, adding that the organization is actively following developments on the ban.

This isn’t a one-sided battle, however. Huawei does have some influence in the device market that it can throw around. The company is working on establishing itself as a leader in 5G technology, currently offering the most advanced and cheapest 5G capability in the world. It also outsold Apple in smartphones in the first quarter of this year, seizing its second place globally (after Samsung).

The ban could stop Huawei’s ascent, with Ryan Koontz, a Rosenblatt Securities analyst, saying that it could “cause China to delay its 5G network build until the ban is lifted, having an impact on many global component suppliers,” as the company is “is heavily dependent on US semiconductor products and would be seriously crippled without supply of key US components.” The US has also “pressured both allies and foes to avoid using Huawei for 5G networks that will form the backbone of the modern economy,” Bloomberg adds.

So on a macro, geopolitical level, things are definitely heating up. On the micro, consumer level, however, things aren’t that bad right now. Some of you may have to re-think your device purchases, and those who do own Huawei devices right now might find it impossible to use certain apps. The development and implementation of 5G technology as a whole, however, will undoubtedly come bruised and battered out of the trenches of this trade war.

Young person smartphone.

Child and teen obesity on the rise as they’re consuming too much… screen time

If you want to see you health improving, stop looking at the screen.

Young person smartphone.

Image credits Paul Henri Degrande.

A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association warns that children and teens should try to wean off of screens. Screen time from any device is associated with an increased amount of sedentary behavior, they explain, which promotes obesity and other health complications associated with lack of physical exercise.

The heart of the issue

Sedentary behaviors — things like sitting, reclining, or laying down while awake — exert little physical energy and contribute to overweightedness and obesity. That’s not exactly news. However, we’re spending more time than ever before with our eyes glued onto screens, and this is especially true for children, teens, and yours truly.

Now, the American Heart Association (AHA) says that this lifestyle poses serious consequences to the health of teens and children.

The new scientific statement — a scholarly synopsis of a topic and official point of view of the emitter — was developed by a panel of experts who reviewed the existing literature on the subject of sedentary behavior’s relation to cardiovascular disease or stroke. The document holds that children and adolescents have seen a net increase in the recreational use of screen-based devices over the last twenty years. While TV-viewing has declined over the same period, those hours were usurped by other devices such as smartphones or tablet computers.

Current estimates are that 8- to 18-year-olds spend more than 7 hours using screens daily, according to the paper. However, the authors caution that almost all of the available scientific literature on this subject relied on self-reported screen time. Very few of the studies looked at which types of devices were used in different contexts, they add. All in all, this means that the studies can’t be used to establish a cause-effect relationship between the use of these devices and the health complications examined as part of the paper.

There is a large body of evidence pointing to the relationship between screen time and obesity, however. Writing for Reuters in late 2016, Lisa Rapaport reported that “a minimum five-hour-a-day [TV time] increased the odds of obesity by 78 percent compared with teens who didn’t have TV time,” and that similarly “heavy use of other screens was tied to a 43 percent greater risk of obesity.”

“Still, the available evidence is not encouraging: overall screen time seems to be increasing — if portable devices are allowing for more mobility, this has not reduced overall sedentary time nor risk of obesity,” says Tracie A. Barnett, chair of the writing group.

“Although the mechanisms linking screen time to obesity are not entirely clear, there are real concerns that screens influence eating behaviors, possibly because children ‘tune out’ and don’t notice when they are full when eating in front of a screen.”

“There is also evidence that screens are disrupting sleep quality, which can also increase the risk of obesity,” Barnett said.

The most important takeaway from the study is for parents and children to try limiting screen time, the authors add. AHA recommends that children and teens get no more than 1 or 2 hours of recreational screen time daily, which the authors also support. Given that younglings already “far exceed these limits,” they add, parents should step up to the plane and be vigilant about their children’s screen time “including phones,” Barnett believes.

Efforts to minimize screen time should center around parent involvement, the team explains. Parents can help push children to reduce the time they spend on devices by setting a good personal example and establish screen-time regulations around the house.

Try to keep screens out of the bedroom (as much as one can do that in the XXIst century), the team adds, as some studies have shown they can interfere with sleep patterns. Also, try to maximize face-to-face interactions and outdoor activities.

“In essence: Sit less; play more,” Barnett explains.

The team says that more research is needed to help us understand the long-term effects of screen time on children and teens. We also don’t really know how to help youngsters be less sedentary — a problem that the appeal of screens aggravates, but doesn’t necessarily cause. Before we can address this imbalance in how children and then choose to spend their time, we need more comprehensive information on the impact of today’s sedentary pursuits.

The paper “Sedentary Behaviors in Today’s Youth: Approaches to the Prevention and Management of Childhood Obesity: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association” has been published in the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.