Children who own mobile phones at age nine ‘perform less well’ in academic tests

ESRI study finds about 40 per cent of Irish children have mobile phone by that age

Research found children who own mobile phones at age nine perform less well in academic tests. Photograph: iStock

Research found children who own mobile phones at age nine perform less well in academic tests. Photograph: iStock

 

Children who owned a mobile phone at age nine performed less well in reading and maths tests at age 13, according to new research.

The finding is contained in an ESRI study that used data from 8,500 children to examine the academic performance of children who owned mobile phones at an earlier age.

The study found that about 40 per cent of children owned a mobile phone by the age of nine. Children in socially disadvantaged schools were more likely to have a mobile phone at that age.

By contrast, children with parents on higher incomes and with higher levels of education were less likely to own a mobile phones at the same age.

When researchers examined the performance of children who owned a mobile phone at this age, they scored scored 4 per cent less on average in standardised reading and maths tests at the age of 13.

The link between mobile phone ownership and test scores remained even when researchers took account of many of the factors that typically influence test scores, such as social class.

Earlier research from other countries, while limited in scale and scope, has suggested mobile phone use may have a negative impact through cognitive overload, increased distraction and altering memory and learning patterns.

Studies have also shown that phones can reduce both sleep duration and sleep quality, which is also likely to impact on children’s academic progress.

The findings come at a time when many schools are consulting staff, students and parents on rules regarding phone use in schools

The study’s authors said the results may help schools in making decisions on whether and when to restrict access to personal devices, particularly during the primary school years.

Selina McCoy, associate research professor at the ESRI, said: “It is important to keep monitoring this . . . to provide evidence for the growing debate about the potential effects of screen time and mobile phone use of young people in Ireland. ”

The study was funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Commission on Communications Regulation (ComReg).