Later is better: Mobile phone ownership and child academic development, evidence from a longitudinal study

January 15, 2019
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Children are increasingly getting access to mobile phones, and mobile phone ownership is now occurring at a time in children’s lives where their literacy and numeracy skills are developing. We examine whether there is an association between early mobile phone ownership and academic outcomes and whether delaying mobile phone ownership benefits the development of children’s academic skills. The mobility of mobile phone technology allows it to have a potentially unprecedented impact on children’s development. It can seamlessly cross into school and home settings; it is difficult for parents and teachers to supervise and monitor usage, as it accompanies the child throughout the day; and, consequently, the frequency of engagement with mobile phone technology is likely to be far higher for than other forms of technology.

How does mobile phone ownership impact on children in Ireland? Earlier research from other countries, while limited in scale and scope, has suggested that 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.