We’ve long known that too much screen time for young kids can be disruptive to their development. Not only can it harm sleeping patterns and create learning delays but it also has scores of negative consequences for behaviour. Now, a new study has found concrete proof that excessive screen time in young kids lowers brain function. The details are giving parents very where nightmares.
On Monday, JAMA Pediatrics released a study that looked specifically at how screen time affects a young child’s language and literacy skills. What they found was that kids who watched more screen time than recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines showed lower scores than kids who did not engage in too much screen time. The study stressed that the long term consequences of excessive screen time are largely unknown but given the results of this study, more research needs to be done.
The study was conducted between 2017 and 2018 and tracked 47 kids of pre-school age who watched more than the AAP recommended screen time. The kids were given a cognitive test and the parents were asked to take a survey produced for the study called a ScreenQ, which looked at how much screen time and what kinds of content the kids had been consuming. What researchers found was the higher the ScreenQ score (watching too much) the lower the kids’ brain functions were in areas of cognitive, language and literacy skills.
More studies are needed and are likely being planned as new information about how damaging screens are for kids comes to light. In the meantime, many parents want to know what are safe guidelines to follow when it comes to screens and kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of one have zero screen time. For kids under five, the AAP suggests that kids have up to one hour of media use and that parents co-view and explain what the kids are watching. They also suggest that parents put a priority of unplugged free play with and to include reading together to help build literacy, language, and cognitive skills.