February 21, 2019

High Level Of Screen Time Linked To Delays In Child Development

31 January 2019, 01:35 | Silvia Roy

Study links high levels of screen time to slower child development

Study links excessive screen time to developmental delays in children

Toddlers who spend too much time in front of televisions, tablets, and smartphones may not become as skilled at problem-solving, communication and other skills needed for school as their peers who have less screen time, a new study suggests.

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

But the results have been contested by others in the field who say the study did not take into account what the children were using the screens for, and that the influence of screens had a smaller effect than other factors such as family income, the child's sleep and whether they were read to. A similar result was found when children's screen time at three years old was compared with their development at five years. This involves controlling the number of hours spent in front of screens but it can also include establishing device-free zones (such as the dinner table) and baskets where everybody puts their devices at certain points of the day, to make room for family connection.

"Early exposure to excessive screen time at 24 months was predictive of lower developmental outcomes at 36 months", said Dr. Skyler Kalady, of the Cleveland Clinic. The study authors admit that they looked only at the screen time not at the specific apps, websites and games that the children are using on their screens.

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By the time they start school, a quarter of children show some degree of deficient or delayed development in language, communication, motor skills and "socio-emotional health", according to the team led by Dr Sheri Madigan from the University of Calgary. The Canadian Pediatrics Society's recommended pediatric guideline recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time per day. This increased to 25 hours a week when the children turned three years old, and 11 hours per week at five years of age. Both organizations do not allow more than an hour of screen time for children between ages two and five.

Too much time spent watching TV and playing computer games can hold back the development of young children, new research suggests.

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".

But, while the temptation to keep rowdy children quiet using TV and digital devices can be strong, parents need to focus on what's really important.

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Earlier this month, Britain's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health released its guide on screen time for clinicians and parents, stating there is "essentially no evidence" to support the popular idea that screen time is directly "toxic" to one's health.

Madigan encourages parents and guardians to set a good example and attempt to engage their children while they're watching the devices.

The amount of time two and three-year-olds devoted to screen-gazing had a negative effect on their performance at three and five.

Our study shows an association between screen time and child development. Parents should also choose high-quality shows and watch them with their children.

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