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From screen to green: The effect of screen time and setting on pre-adolescent children’s executive function skills.


According to Greenfield’s Theory of Social Change and Human Development (2009), ecological changes lead to shifts in human development. With technological resources available to early-adolescent youth, it is expected that “digital-natives” will demonstrate developmental shift patterns relating to cognitive skills of attention. This study further explores the impact of Attention Restoration Theory (ART) upon selective attention in pre-adolescent children. Attention skills of fifth-grade digital natives were assessed using the Test of Everyday Attention for Children in two environmental conditions – natural settings and urban settings. A media survey was administered to assess the effect of digital media frequency use upon attention. Fifth grade students assessed in a natural environment had better attention scores than their peers assessed in an urban classroom setting. In addition, gifted children in natural settings out-performed their gifted peers assessed in urban settings. A shift in attention skills in gifted and non-gifted students due to digital media resources did not occur. Results have implications for classroom settings that enhance attention and culture based behaviors of digital media use.

Keywords: digital media, social change, executive functions, attention, nature, urban setting

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