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Increasing screen time linked to developmental problems in later childhood

Increasing screen time linked to developmental problems in later childhood

by Shruthi Venkatesh February 8 2019, 12:49 pm Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 8 secs

According to a new study, toddlers spending a lot of time staring at screens are linked with poorer performance on developmental screening tests later in childhood. The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on 28th January, found a direct association between screen time at ages 2 and 3 and development at 3 and 5.

Child’s brain grows fastest during his first three years of life, and he learns best when he uses all five senses. The experience of holding an apple, smelling it, tasting it, and listening to a real person’s name is much richer for a child than seeing a picture of an apple on a screen and hearing the word come out of nowhere. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens off around babies and toddlers younger than 18 months. They say a little screen time can be okay for older toddlers, and children 2 and older should get no more than an hour of screen time per day. In Canada and the US, experts say children should not use screens before they are at least 18 months old. Even having the TV on in the background may be harmful. No one yet knows the full impact, but some scientists believe that background sounds and images distract young children from their play, which is essential for learning. “Kids need a lot of focus and concentration. Background TV interferes with cognitive development,” says Claire Lerner, a social worker and parenting advisor at Zero to Three, a non-profit focusing on early childhood development. Besides, she adds, given how much sleep babies and toddlers need, “you want the vast majority of their waking hours to be interaction with loving caregivers.”

Toddlers who play with touchscreen devices frequently will sleep less, according to a study. (the straits times)

“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 paediatric guidelines of no more than one hour of high-quality programming per day,” said Sheri Madigan, an assistant professor and research chair in determinants of child development at the University of Calgary, who was the first author of the study. “Higher screen time viewing at 2 and 3 years of age was associated with children's delays in meeting developmental milestones at 3 and 5 years of age, respectively,” she said. “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 new study included data on 2,441 mothers and children in Canada. The mothers were recruited for the study when they were pregnant between 2008 and 2010, and data was collected between 2011 and 2016. Screen time included watching TV programmes, films or videos, gaming, and using a computer, tablet, phone or any other screen-based device. This study found out that at the age of two, the children were clocking up around 17 hours of screen time per week. This increased to around 25 hours a week by the age of three but dropped to around 11 hours a week at the age of five, when the children started primary school. “To our knowledge, the present study is the first to provide evidence of a directional association between screen time and poor performance on development screening tests among very young children,” the researchers wrote.

The American Academy of Paediatrics offers guidelines to help families with the management of children's screen time.

For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.

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 are seeing.

For children ages two to five years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programmes. Again, parents should be watching it with their children.

For children ages six and older, place consistent limits, making sure screen time does not get in the way of sleep and physical activity.

Overall, “the good news is that screen time is something parents can control,” Gentile said. “In other studies, we've found that when parents put limits on the amount and content of children's screen media, it is a powerful protective factor for a wide range of children's health and wellness indicators.”

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We still need more research to tell us which children are most vulnerable to the harms of screen use and the impact it may have on a child's mental health. “We also need to look at the effects of different content as there are also many positive ways of using screens.”



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