DOI: 10.1002/advs.202307540 ISSN: 2198-3844

Causal Relationships Between Screen Use, Reading, and Brain Development in Early Adolescents

Mingyang Li, Ruoke Zhao, Xixi Dang, Xinyi Xu, Ruike Chen, Yiwei Chen, Yuqi Zhang, Zhiyong Zhao, Dan Wu
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • General Materials Science
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


The rise of new media has greatly changed the lifestyles, leading to increased time on these platforms and less time spent reading. This shift has particularly profound impacts on early adolescents, who are in a critical stage of brain development. Previous studies have found associations between screen use and mental health, but it remains unclear whether screen use is the direct cause of the outcomes. Here, the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) dataset is utlized to examine the causal relationships between screen use and brain development. The results revealed adverse causal effects of screen use on language ability and specific behaviors in early adolescents, while reading has positive causal effects on their language ability and brain volume in the frontal and temporal regions. Interestingly, increased screen use is identified as a result, rather than a cause, of certain behaviors such as rule‐breaking and aggressive behaviors. Furthermore, the analysis uncovered an indirect influence of screen use, mediated by changes in reading habits, on brain development. These findings provide new evidence for the causal influences of screen use on brain development and highlight the importance of monitoring media use and related habit change in children.

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