Too Much Screen Time May Be Stunting Toddlers' Brains

Grant Boone
November 7, 2019

The study's lead author is Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

The American Association of Pediatrics had three years ago announced new recommendations for children's media use, specifying that children between two and five years should limit screen use to one hour per day with high-quality programmes.

Scans done of these children revealed that those who were placed in front of a screen for more than one hour per day without their parents being involved had a problem with the white matter of their brains.

That's an area key to the development of language, literacy and cognitive skills.

The researchers assessed the children for screen time and performed diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging scans - a class of MRI scans created to probe structural changes - and found those with higher screen scores had lower brain white matter integrity in regions involving language, executive function and literacy skills.

Spending too many hours glued to a screen could have a damaging effect on toddlers' brain development, a study warns.

At this stage, children "require face-to-face interaction", said Anderson to reach developmental milestones including building language and social skills.

For children under 18 months, avoid using screen media other than video chat. "Kids who report five hours of screen time could have parents who use 10 hours of screen time". The children completed standard cognitive tests followed by diffusion tensor MRI, which provides estimates of white matter integrity in the brain. "We've done some studies where kids are using them by 2 months old to 3 months old". "But it's important for parents to know that these results don't show that heavy media use causes 'brain damage, '" Radesky wrote. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

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A lack of development of those "cables" can slow the brain's processing speed; on the other hand, studies show that reading, juggling or learning and practicing a musical instrument improves the organization and structure of the brain's white matter. It starts from 1 to 19, with 1 being the screen time within the scientifically prescribed one hour limit.

And in teenagers and adults, "small doses of screen time can be a mental health-positive way of relaxing, reducing stress, and connecting socially to friends and family members".

It is also recommended that parents set aside media-free family time together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.

"These are tracks that we know are involved with language and literacy", Hutton said, "And these were the ones relatively underdeveloped in these kids with more screen time". "We're starting to see a lot more children that have these very dysfunctional social patterns, and they're more responsive to media".

Watch or be engaged with your child when possible during screen time and choose high-quality programming.

In fact, an AAP report published last year recommended that doctors prescribe a daily dose of playtime for kids, noting that average playtime among United States kids has dropped by as much as 25% during the last 30 years, while screen time has increased significantly.

Even more concerning, say experts, are the young ages at which children are being exposed.

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