Published: Fri, February 01, 2019
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Study links screen time to slower child development

Study links screen time to slower child development

Sheri Madigan, assistant professor in the department of psychology at the U of C, said the study that followed about 2,500 Alberta homes between 2011 and 2016 found that on average, the children included in the sample were viewing screens for about two to three hours a day, between the ages of two and five.

She added: "Parents should actively encourage their children to engage in a range of activities which promote their child's development and give them as much face-to-face time as possible".

The research, conducted in part by University of Calgary assistant professor of psychology Sheri Madigan, looked at the electronic-device habits of nearly 2,500 women and their children, who were aged 2 to 5.

However, the association was not bidirectional and lower scores on developmental screening tests were not correlated to higher amounts of screen time, they wrote in JAMA Pediatrics.

The AAP recommends that children 1 to 2 years of age shouldn't exceed one hour of screen time per day. She also suggests referencing the Canadian Pediatrics Society's screen time guidelines for children, which recommend no screen time for children under two years old and that regular screen time for children from two to five years of age be limited to less than one hour a day.

"Much of this study is well conducted, which is good in a research field where many studies are poorly done but there are huge limitations to be aware of in terms of the practical implications of the work", he said, adding that it is premature to advise that "limiting screen time alone will improve developmental outcomes for children in any meaningful way".

They said that children spending time on screens could be missing important opportunities to hone and master their motor, interpersonal, and communication skills.

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.

"Screen time should at least be an educational experience, not just a shiny distraction", Dimitriu said. While some argue screen time is harmful for children's mental and physical health, others warn of moral panic, and say evidence on the issue is of poor quality and that there is no clear sign of harm. The way in which children are using TV or computers is also important.

The new study provides insight into how technology impacts individual young people over time, "but increases in screen time observed here indicate between about 0.36% 0.64% of the variability in decreases in the developmental outcome".

Kalady said it's helpful to set up limits and expectations early, because it's easier to start off with healthy screen time habits than it is to scale back once you've already begun.

Is your family screen time under control? Both effects are equally detrimental for the children say the researchers. Parents should also choose high-quality shows and watch them with their children. 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. Children benefit when parents devote more attention to them rather than relying on devices to occupy or calm them down.

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