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Tech's impact on kids: Lawmakers push for research

Kids are spending more time staring at screens, but there's little scientific research about how it affects their hea...

Posted: Jul 30, 2018 10:39 PM
Updated: Jul 30, 2018 10:39 PM

Kids are spending more time staring at screens, but there's little scientific research about how it affects their health and development.

Some lawmakers hope to change that.

A bill introduced last week in the Senate with bipartisan support would authorize the director of the National Institutes of Health to conduct and support research into how early exposure to technology can impact child development.

The bill, called the Children and Media Research Advancement Act, seeks to spend up to $95 million on research, including long-term studies, over the next five years.

The studies will explore a handful of mediums, from social media, apps and games to movies, mobile devices and virtual reality, and its effect on infants, children and teen cognitive and physical health. The research would also inform parents and policymakers about issues today's youth faces in the digital age, including bullying and depression, according to Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts who introduced the bill.

"What we feed the minds of children is as important as what we feed their bodies. We need to understand it as best we can," Michael Rich, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, told CNNMoney. "We need to use data to project forward what can create the healthiest and safest environment in which we are raising kids and interacting with each other."

Related: Apple's Screen Time feature proves you're addicted to your phone

This isn't the first time a bill like this has been introduced. A version of the bill, introduced in 2004, called for research into the effects of technology on children. The bill did not pass.

But Rich, who is also founder and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, said he's hopeful the reintroduced version of the bill will pass. Tech addiction has become top of mind in Silicon Valley as companies reexamine the impact of the platforms they've helped create. Earlier this year, former employees at companies such as Google and Facebook formed a new organization called Center for Humane Technology focusing on the issue of rethinking and redesigning tools to be less intrusive on humanity.

Related: Silicon Valley employees launch campaign to combat tech addiction

Facebook and Common Sense -- a nonprofit that advocates for kids and families in the digital age -- are among those who have endorsed the bill.

"Without good research, we are performing an unprecedented experiment on our kids," James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense, in a statement.

Even if the bill passes, Dean Eckles, an assistant professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management, warns that -- similar to the nutrition field -- "credible, rigorous research is difficult in this area." Other factors such as a person's preferences or genes and the rapid pace of tech changes make it challenging for researchers to draw conclusions.

In the meantime, companies such as Apple are leaning in to the "time well spent" movement. In June, Apple teased an iOS update that allows users to track how much time they're spending on their phones and apps each day. The concept aims to educate users' about their consumption habits.

According to a 2017 report from Common Sense, kids under the age of 8 spent about 48 minutes a day using mobile devices, up from 15 minutes a day in 2013.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 248189

Reported Deaths: 5411
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto16841171
Hinds15890312
Harrison13037191
Rankin10439205
Jackson10128177
Lee8721135
Madison8071160
Jones6166108
Forrest5870117
Lauderdale5724177
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Lamar475363
Washington4734122
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Panola360475
Pontotoc358752
Monroe3487103
Warren337895
Union337457
Marshall336065
Neshoba3325150
Pearl River319492
Leflore2980104
Lincoln293385
Sunflower277569
Tate266659
Alcorn260651
Itawamba258858
Pike258176
Hancock253557
Prentiss242450
Scott241043
Yazoo237754
Copiah237449
Tippah236246
Simpson232367
Leake227864
Coahoma223154
Grenada215770
Covington208871
Marion206171
Adams201666
Winston198061
George197438
Wayne196130
Attala191658
Newton186542
Chickasaw181243
Tishomingo179659
Holmes167867
Jasper165134
Clay156732
Stone140218
Tallahatchie138234
Clarke136460
Calhoun133321
Smith118823
Yalobusha113834
Walthall111136
Noxubee109622
Greene108929
Montgomery108134
Carroll103721
Lawrence101217
Perry99131
Amite96425
Webster90624
Claiborne85125
Tunica84521
Jefferson Davis83825
Humphreys81524
Benton80323
Kemper75720
Quitman6758
Franklin65315
Choctaw59613
Wilkinson58125
Jefferson53019
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1586
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 417528

Reported Deaths: 6030
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61313888
Mobile29768542
Madison26637185
Tuscaloosa20580268
Montgomery18696304
Shelby18310113
Baldwin16002179
Lee12261101
Morgan12093112
Etowah11604157
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Marshall10108107
Houston8474129
Cullman7960104
Limestone790174
Elmore7723101
DeKalb764697
St. Clair7460120
Lauderdale745183
Talladega6102108
Walker5852174
Jackson574441
Blount526483
Colbert525670
Autauga510355
Coffee434256
Dale391081
Franklin363445
Chilton333565
Covington326167
Russell323810
Escambia312442
Dallas300296
Clarke278233
Chambers277869
Tallapoosa2599107
Pike245829
Marion240549
Lawrence240447
Winston223835
Bibb213047
Geneva197431
Marengo197329
Pickens195231
Hale173742
Barbour171236
Butler167958
Fayette166026
Cherokee159630
Henry151119
Monroe144417
Randolph138535
Washington136526
Clay125246
Crenshaw118044
Lamar116619
Cleburne116023
Macon113335
Lowndes108735
Wilcox101221
Bullock98128
Perry95419
Conecuh92920
Sumter88726
Greene75323
Coosa60414
Choctaw51224
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