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More screen time leads to poor developmental outcomes

Time on the Ipad, hours in front of the TV, more Xbox, Netflix on again, playing on the parent phone – are the countless hours of technology use starting to impact our children in a negative way? A new study from Canadian researchers suggest that it may be impacting childhood development.
Kids, ages 2 to 5 years, who spent increased time on screens turned in a poorer performance on a developmental screening test, Canadian researchers reported.

In a study, higher levels of screen time at ages 24 and 36 months were significantly associated with less-than-stellar performance on a developmental questionnaire, which assesses developmental progress, including fine motor skills and problem solving, according to Sheri Madigan, PhD, of the University of Calgary, and co-authors. "To our knowledge, the present study is the first to provide evidence of a directional association between screen time and poor performance on developmental screening tests among very young children," Madigan and co-authors wrote.

Jenny Radesky MD, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement "Media and Young Minds," notes that the study's ability to account for newer media formats was a plus. "Many prior studies of this kind were from the times when toddlers watched TV and videos, but on-demand videos, interactive apps, and mobile media are a new ballgame," she indicated.

The authors pointed out that most U.S. children, ages 0 to 8 years, spend more than 2 hours a day on screens, and this amount of time surpasses guidelines, such as those from the AAP. The AAP recommends 1 hour of screen time a day for children, ages 2 to 5 years, and no more than 2 hours a day for older children. The potential detrimental effects of too much screen time for young children can include difficulty with interpersonal and communication skills, limited verbal and non-verbal social exchanges, and lack of physical activity, the authors stated.

This study included 2,441 children who were followed up at ages 24, 36, and 60 months. The children and mothers had taken part in the larger All Our Families study. The moms completed ASQ-3 forms, which identifies five progress in five domains: communication, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem solving and personal-social interaction. A summed ASQ-3 score across those five domains was used, with higher scores indicating better development, the authors explained.

Mothers indicated the range of time their kids spent with electronic devices on a typical weekday and weekend day. Devices included TV shows, movies, computers, and gaming systems. According to the moms' reports, the children viewed screens a mean of 17.09 hours/week at 24 months,  24.99 hours/week at 36 months, and 10.85/week at 60 months. The decrease in screen time at age 5 years age may have been because children started school or spent time in pre- or post-school care, the authors stated. (Wow, think about those numbers!!!!!!)

This study is a good reminder for all of us to consider the amount of screen time that is offered to our children. The more screen time, then the less social interaction, family time, and face to face communication. During early childhood, infants and toddlers learn about devices by watching the adults around them. As care givers and parents, we model behavior for our children. In 2019, let’s take a step back and look at OUR time on technology. Let’s model good behaviors for our family. Most importantly let’s be cautious with the daily screen time for our kids because based on this study it may be impeding their normal development. And remember, we are the ones in control of the technology, so let’s parent the right way and make a difference for our children – DECREASE SCREEN TIME FOR EVERYONE AT HOME!

Madigan S, et al "Association Between Screen Time and Children's Performance on a Developmental Screening Test" JAMA Pediatr 2019; DOI:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.5056.
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