Excess Screen Time May Cause Developmental Delays in Young Children

Excess Screen Time May Cause Developmental Delays in Young Children

A new Canadian study has linked increased screen time with delayed development in children, adding new fuel to the debate over how long is too long for kids to spend in front of their electronic devices. Meanwhile they suggest that families need to be conscious about the time their children are spending with digital media and warn the excessive use may become problematic.

"It looks at communication skills, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, and the social and emotional skills".

"The majority of children of all ages exceed the screen time recommendations, so parents have to be more strict setting healthy limits", Goldfield said by email.

Too much screen time could affect kids' development in a couple of possible ways, although a cause-and-effect link hasn't been proven, she said.

"We were particularly interested in the long-term impact of screens, which is why we followed children over time, from ages 2 to 5, and repeatedly assessed both screen time and children's developmental outcomes", Madigan said.

That strongly supports expert guidelines that recommend limiting screen time for young children, when the brain is rapidly developing new connections and learning from every cue it receives.

Writing in the journal Jama Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Waterloo, the University of Calgary and Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute describe how they investigated the issue by looking at the screen time and development of more than 2,400 children between the ages of two and five. The children monitored spent, on average, 2.4, 3.6 and 1.6 hours of screen time per day at ages two, three and five, respectively. As a mother of four, the youngest of which are two-year-old twins, she tries to keep their screen time to a minimum: four hours total on weekends, and on most weekdays, none at all.

Those who spent much more time staring at the TV, tablets, or a computer had lower scores on developmental screenings a few years later. This didn't appear to be true, however - suggesting that the screen time might have contributed to developmental delays, and not that developmental delays might have contributed to kids getting extra screen time.

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". "We would, in the light of this paper, reiterate our advice that families spend time interacting as a family, that screens are not allowed to interfere with sleep, and that screen-based interaction is no substitute for in-person contact", he said.

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

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

The lead author of the study says it shows that "positive stimulation for physical and cognitive development comes from interaction with caregivers". Parents should also choose high-quality shows and watch them with their children.