Children who owned a mobile phone at age nine performed less well in tests at age 13, according to an ESRI study.
Using data from 8,500 children involved in an ongoing longitudinal study called 'Growing up in Ireland', researchers found that those children scored 4% less on average in standardised reading and maths tests carried out at the age of 13.
The research found that 40% of children owned a mobile phone by the age of nine.
Children attending more socially disadvantaged schools were more likely to have mobile phones.
Children with parents who had higher incomes and higher levels of education were less likely to own their own mobile phones at age nine.
The association observed between mobile phone ownership and test scores remained, regardless of other factors that typically influence test scores, such as socioeconomic class.
The ESRI said the results may help schools in making decisions on whether and when to restrict access to personal devices, such as phones, particularly during the primary school years.
The study – ‘Later is better: Mobile phone ownership and child academic development’ - was funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Commission on Communications Regulation, ComReg.
Selina McCoy, Associate Research Professor at the ESRI, said this was the first time the ESRI had looked at the impact of mobile phone ownership on children's academic development.
She said: "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."
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