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Children who own mobile phones at younger age perform worse in reading and maths tests

New research has found that four in 10 children in Ireland own a mobile phone by the age of nine.

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File photo
Image: Shutterstock/buenaventura

CHILDREN WHO OWN a mobile phone at age nine perform worse in tests at age 13, according to a new study. 

The ESRI research uses data from 8,500 children in the Growing Up in Ireland study to examine the academic performance of children who owned a mobile phone at an earlier age.

It found that children who owned a mobile phone at age nine scored 4% less on average in standardised reading and maths tests at age 13.

The research found that four in 10 children owned a mobile phone by the age of nine.

Children attending more socially disadvantaged schools are more likely to have mobile phones than those with parents who have higher incomes and higher levels of education, according to the research.

The observed association between mobile phone ownership and test scores remains when the research takes account of many of the factors which typically influence test scores such as socioeconomic class.

Restricting access 

The researchers said the findings “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, noted this is the first time the organisation has looked at the impact of mobile phone ownership on children’s academic development.

“It is important to keep monitoring this going forward in order to provide evidence for the growing debate about the potential effects of screen time and mobile phone use of young people in Ireland,” McCoy stated. 

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

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Órla Ryan

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