How does too much screen time affect young kids? Scientists say the answer might be a lot more than you would expect.
In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, scientists studied MRIs of kids ages 3 to 5 to discover the impact of smartphones, tablets, and television. Their discovery? Kids who used screens for more than an hour a day showed lower levels of white matter in their brain development, especially when that screen usage is not accompanied by parental interaction.
In case you didn’t know, white matter is the area that affects the development of language, cognitive skills and literacy. These are the most important in terms of brain development in the first five years of life. Which is why they conducted the study to show that screens can cause delays in these vital connections and research is showing that it leads to lower pre-literacy skills and expressive language.
Rather than screen time, the scientists recommend more face to face interactions–talking, singing, playing games, arts and crafts, and simply spending time together.
If screen time is wanted or needed, experts recommend choosing the content wisely, rather than allowing a child to choose content and use it freely. Many apps are not created by developmental specialists, even those considered to be educational, and are not a better choice than non-screen based play time. It is also important to interact with your child about the content, reteaching material and talking about what they have seen.
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) also weighs in on the topic, recommending no screen time at all for babies under 18 months other than video chatting with friends and family, and low amounts of educational programming for toddlers and preschoolers, along with interacting with parents and caregivers about the media viewed.
How much screen time do you think is right for young children?