How Screen Time Affects the Development of Young Children

A new study has found that exposing babies and young children to more screen time can lead to developmental delays in communication, problem-solving, and social skills. The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, followed over 7,000 children in Japan from age 1 to age 4 and assessed their development using a standardized questionnaire.

Screen Time Linked with Delays in Communication and Problem-Solving Skills

The researchers found that children who had more than four hours of screen time per day at age 1 were almost five times more likely to have communication delays and almost three times more likely to have problem-solving delays by age 2. These delays persisted until age 4, even after adjusting for other factors such as parental education, income, and child gender.

How Screen Time Affects the Development of Young Children
How Screen Time Affects the Development of Young Children

Communication skills include the ability to express oneself verbally and nonverbally, understand others, and follow instructions. Problem-solving skills involve the ability to think logically, plan, and execute tasks. These skills are essential for learning, socializing, and coping with challenges in life.

Screen Time Also Associated with Delays in Fine Motor and Social Skills

The study also found that children who had more than four hours of screen time per day at age 1 were almost twice as likely to have delays in fine motor skills and personal and social skills by age 2. Fine motor skills refer to the coordination of small muscles in the hands and fingers, which are needed for activities such as writing, drawing, and manipulating objects. Personal and social skills include the ability to interact with others, show empathy, and regulate emotions.

The researchers speculated that screen time may interfere with the development of these skills by reducing the opportunities for children to engage in physical play, exploration, and social interaction with their parents and peers. They also suggested that screen time may affect the quality of sleep, which is crucial for brain development.

Limiting Screen Time Can Support Child Development

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children younger than 18 months should avoid screen time except for video chatting with family or friends. Children aged 18 to 24 months can watch some high-quality educational programs with their parents, but not more than one hour per day. Children aged 2 to 5 years should limit their screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programs that are appropriate for their age and developmental level.

The AAP also advises parents to create a family media plan that sets rules and boundaries for screen use, such as avoiding screens during meals, bedtime, and family time. Parents should also model healthy screen habits for their children by limiting their own screen time and being mindful of what they watch or do online.

By following these guidelines, parents can help their children develop the skills they need to thrive in a digital world without compromising their growth and well-being.

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