Screen Time Linked To Poor Development In Very Young Children

Over the past several years, health experts have had a growing interest in how screen time affects young children.  This is really the first generation to grow up with small devices—and screens—in their hands; not just at home but even on the go. As such, this is the first time that we have needed to study the long term effects of screen time on young children.  

A new study, then, has demonstrated that extended screen time is, in fact, linked with poorer performance on childhood developmental screening tests in later years.  According to the study, development that could be affected by extended screen time in the early years include things like motor skills, communication skills, personal social skills, and problem-solving skills. 

University of Calgary research chair in determinants and assistant professor of child development, Sheri Madigan, comments, “On average, the children in our study were viewing screens two to three hours per day. This means that the majority of the children in our sample are exceeding the pediatric guidelines of no more than one hour of high-quality programming per day.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended parents limit screen time for preschool children (between the ages of 2 and 5) to only one hour per day; and this screen time should be high-quality programming (educational, etc). 

Madigan goes on to say, “Higher screen time viewing at 2 and 3 years of age was associated children’s delays in meeting development milestones at 3 and 5 years of age, respectively.  This study shows that, when used in excess, screen time can have consequences for children’s development. Parents can think of screens like they do giving junk food to their kids: In small doses, it’s OK, but in excess it has consequences.”

The study also suggests that parents should develop a personalized media plan for older children.  However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children and teenagers should get at least eight hours of sleep every night, and that should come after getting at least one hour of moderate physical activity every day. 

The results of this study have been published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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