Health Care

Screen time and kids: New findings parents need to know

Screen time and kids: New findings parents need to know”

"This is the first study to document associations between higher screen use and lower measures of brain structure and skills in preschool-aged kids", lead author Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, said, according to CNN.

For children 2 to 5 years, limit the use of the screen to 1 hour per day of high quality programs.

Children between three and five years old with more screen time display lower levels of structural integrity in the brain's white matter, researchers said on Monday raising questions about whether screen-based media might impact brain development.

In addition to the MRI results, excessive screen time was significantly associated with poorer emerging literacy skills and ability to use expressive language, as well as testing lower on the ability to rapidly name objects on cognitive tests taken by the 47 children in the study.

A new study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center published in JAMA Pediatrics showed concerning evidence that brain structure may be altered in kids with more screen use.

Spending too many hours glued to a screen could have a damaging effect on toddlers' brain development, a study warns.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 18 months shouldn't be exposed to screens at all. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.

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Although TV has been around for decades, Hutton pointed out that the recent explosion of portable screen devices has greatly increased the time kids spend looking at them.

Higher ScreenQ scores were associated with reduced integrity of white matter in the brain, which affects organization and myelination, the process of forming a myelin sheath around a nerve to allow nerve impulses to move more quickly, in tracts that involve the executive function of language and other literacy skills. The "ScreenQ" assessment included the child's access to screens (such as the location), their frequency of use, the content (such as educational or violent content), and whether the caregiver watched with their child and talked with them about what they were watching.

"Keeping kids off the screen or away from screens as much as possible - I think no parent really will regret that", said Hutton, who has also done extensive research on the benefits of early reading exposure. These children also had lower scores on language and literacy measures.

"Screen-based media use is prevalent and increasing in home, childcare and school settings at ever younger ages", says Dr. Hutton. The concern is that children with under-stimulated brains in early childhood could develop less efficient connections that become harder to reinforce or fix as they get older.

"The average screen time in these kids was a little over two hours a day", Hutton said. White matter refers to areas of the central nervous system consisting of myelinated axons (threadlike parts of nerve cells), which are also known as tracts.

But for young children, there may be measurable changes in the brain associated with excess screen time. "We're starting to see a lot more children that have these very dysfunctional social patterns, and they're more responsive to media".

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