Screen Time Linked To Developmental Delays in Children

Desiree Burns
February 1, 2019

"We were surprised that children in our study were viewing screens for two to three hours a day", Madigan said.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "This is the first study to show that increased use of screen time in very young children can be associated with slower development".

Canadian psychologists concluded, "The present study examined developmental outcomes during a critical period of growth and maturation, revealing that screen time can impinge on children's ability to develop optimally". "The questions change, but at each age it's trying to get at whether children are meeting their developmental milestones", says Madigan. The research looked into the screen habits and cognitive development of kids who spent two to three hours per day on a gadget.

We found that higher levels of screen time at two and three years predict poorer child outcomes at three and five years, respectively. This far exceeds one-hour daily limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to allow children enough time for creative play and interactions with caregivers and peers.

"What the study shows is that when kids are actually watching screen time, they're actually not getting opportunities to practice those really important developmental skills", said Madigan.

To be clear, "screen time" here isn't just limited to the usual culprits like smartphones and tablets. The more time children spend in front of screen, the worse they did on development tests.

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As a next step the children were assessed for developmental targets in motor skills, social skills, problem solving skills and communication skills.

"Quality screen time is possible, but we need to take a look at what our kids are doing with the devices", Dr. Alex Dimitriu, board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in California, told Healthline.

The apparent explanation is simple: when a kid is in front of a screen, they're not talking, walking or playing, the activities during which basic skills are cultivated. "This means that upwards of 99% of the children's developmental trajectories studied here have nothing to do with screens", Andrew Przybylski, an associate professor and director of research at the University of Oxford's Oxford Internet Institute, said a written statement released by the independent Science Media Centre on Monday. The way in which children are using TV or computers is also important.

She added that screens can also be used in a positive way, if the screen time is in moderation and when it's shared as a family.

More than 2,400 children were included in the analysis.

Although previous research demonstrated a link between screen time and poor academic performance, new research confirms long-term adverse effects. They recommend implementing a family media plan. Watching with parents or caregivers, for example, can make the experience more engaging and less passive, and can even provide opportunities for learning and social development. When children use their bodies to explore and react to the things around them, the visual and tactile input to their brains is more significant, compared to swiping objects on the phone. "You decide how the devices are going to be used, where they're used, how often they're used".

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