Increased Screen Time Linked to Lower Brain Development in Children

Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center

Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center

'Given that screen-based media use is ubiquitous and increasing in children in home, childcare, and school settings, these findings suggest the need for further study to identify the implications for the developing brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain growth in early childhood'.

Researchers said those children had lower levels of development in the brain's white matter.

The study found that wiring in the brains of children whose families practiced screen habits that aligned with AAP recommendations were more well-developed.

The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study assessed screen time in terms of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. "I also see some parents who, it's not even on their radar, and in fact that where I really like to get on my soap box and talk about the fact that media use for the smaller children is not necessary and probably is not good for them". Doctor Hutton also pointed out that kids who sit in front of a screen for five hours usually have parents who sit in front of a screen for 10 hours.

The Cincinnati researchers examined deviations from AAP guidelines and found an association between increased screen-time media use, compared to AAP guidelines, and "lower microstructural integrity of brain white matter tracts supporting language and emergent literacy skills" in the prekindergarten children. They also had screens in their bedrooms and allow preschoolers to watch screens without their guidance.

According to David Anderson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and senior director of National Programs and Outreach at the Child Mind Institute, it's especially important "to be very cautious when using screens with young kids, as this study highlights, as young kids are in a critical developmental period". So, kids can take screens to bed, meals, vehicle and even playground, Dr Hutton pointed out. "But it's important for parents to know that these results don't show that heavy media use causes 'brain damage, '" Radesky wrote.

Scientists believe screen time fails to stimulate the brain in the same way as reading books and can reduce sleep - which is essential for a child's development.

"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". "The more parents can keep their children off screens in early childhood and let them interact with people in the world, the better".

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. "We need to shift their focus and engage with our children", she added.

Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bedtime.

- From 18 to 24 months, introduce digital media by watching quality programming like PBS Kids or Sesame Workshop with children.

The AAP advises designated shared times when screens are banned - such as during dinner or in the auto - as well as media-free locations such as bedrooms.

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

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