Health Care

Too Much Screen Time Leads to Poor Development in Childrens' Brains

Too Much Screen Time Leads to Poor Development in Childrens' Brains”

"What we found in this study is that kids who get excessive screen time are experiencing delays in development", says Sheri Madigan, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary, and lead author of the study.

Researchers say limiting children's time with electronic devices isn't easy, but there are ways to do it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than one hour of screen time for kids between two and five-years-old.

In the study, 2-year-olds spent about 17 hours a week in front of a screen.

Madigan and Tough believe that the findings from this study can be of great use to health-care professionals who are seeking to guide parents on the appropriate screen time limits for their children.

Still, it adds to a growing body of evidence linking limited screen time to better cognitive, physical and psychological development in early childhood, said Gary Goldfield, a researcher at the University of Ottawa who wasn't involved in the study.

Mothers also completed questionnaires about children's progress with a range of developmental milestones during the course of the study. For example, when children are observing screens without an interactive or physical component, they are more sedentary and, therefore, not practicing gross motor skills, such as walking and running, which in turn may delay development in this area.

In an e-mail, Dr. Max Davie, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in Britain, said the latest study shows only "a weak association between screen time and developmental outcomes".

Higher levels of screen time at the ages of two and three years turned out to be "significantly associated" with poorer test results at three and five years. "This means that most of the children in our sample are exceeding the recommended guidelines by the AAP of no more than one hour of high-quality programming per day".

At two years, three years, and five years, mothers were asked to record how much time their child spent using screens, including time in front of the TV, computer or other devices.

"Most of the research on children and screens has been cross-sectional, meaning that associations are based on a particular snapshot in time and don't reveal if there are lasting influences of screen time on children's outcomes", Madigan said.

Starting as toddlers, many kids now spend part of every day staring at a screen instead of being physically active or interacting with others.

Although previous research demonstrated a link between screen time and poor academic performance, new research confirms long-term adverse effects.

She added: "Parents should actively encourage their children to engage in a range of activities which promote their child's development and give them as much face-to-face time as possible".

The authors urged health professionals to work with families to develop "personalised media plans" created to place boundaries on children's screen time. "When parents watch with their children, they can point out interesting things and contribute to language skills and learning".

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