Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Study links screen time to slower child development

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Celia Hoffman | 31 January, 2019, 01:34

"If much of that time in a child's day is spent in front of a screen, they're missing opportunities to learn and develop".

In addition the researchers said that they are also looking at the specific impacts of the children watching the screens on their own or with their caregivers.

Dr Max Davie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: "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". They also completed standard questionnaires to assess their child's development, with questions including whether the child could complete tasks such as drawing particular shapes, copying certain behaviours or forming sentences - tasks covering areas from fine motor control to communication skills.

A new study published Monday in "JAMA Pediatrics" found that children spending a lot of time staring at screens when they are two and three years old could lead to poor development when they are between the ages of three and five.

Almost 2,500 Alberta families participated in the project and documented their children's screen time.

She says her study provides some clearer answers to this "chicken or egg question", and indicates that excessive screen time is likely a key contributor to recent research findings that show one-quarter of Canadian children are ill-prepared for learning when they begin school.

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.

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The study showed the children were watching television or using digital devices for an average of 2.4 hours a day at age two, 3.6 hours at age three, and 1.6 hours at age five. A rather straightforward correlation appeared in the results: "Greater screen time at 24 months was associated with poorer performance on developmental screening tests at 36 months, and similarly, greater screen time at 36 months was associated with lower scores on developmental screening tests at 60 months".

The issue of whether screen time is bad for children has become a battlefield.

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".

"Is too much screen time a culprit in creating these disparities in learning?"

Because we only looked at total number of hours on screens, we don't know which apps, games or websites children are using. What they found, unequivocally, is that it's the excess screen time that causes the delays.

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". "When parents watch with their children, they can point out interesting things and contribute to language skills and learning".

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