Medicine

More screen time for toddlers more problems

More screen time for toddlers more problems

The more screen time they had, the poorer they scored on developmental tests when they reached age five. Meanwhile they suggest that families need to be conscious about the time their children are spending with digital media and warn the excessive use may become problematic.

Limitations included the research team's inability to account for screen time children experienced before age 2 and to distinguish between specific types of screen time, such as whether children were watching educational apps.

Also, our study is not able to directly determine how screen time delays child development.

Published this week in the pediatric journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at the screen time habits of a group of 2 year-old-children and their development.

She added that screens can also be used in a positive way, if the screen time is in moderation, and when it's shared as a family.

One in four Canadian children are not developmentally ready for school by the time they start kindergarten, and a new study suggests excessive screen time may be a key contributor.

"What is new in this study is that we are studying really young children, so aged 2-5, when brain development is really rapidly progressing and also child development is unfolding so rapidly", Dr Sheri Madigan, first author of the study from the University of Calgary, told the Guardian. The mothers were asked to report on the amount of screen time they allowed their children and it showed that on an average the children were in front of screens for 2.4, 3.6 and 1.6 hours per day at two, three and five years of age, respectively.

Another reason screen time can slow development is that the hours passed in front of televisions and tablets mean kids may miss out on chances to scribble with crayons or play games that help them learn how to kick a ball or take turns.

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Is your family screen time under control?

"It's creating some disparities in terms of children's development, where the kids who are watching screens are having some compromised development, whereas we're not seeing that with kids who have a low amount of screen time viewing", Madigan said in an interview.

Researchers found that greater screen time at 24 and 36 months was significantly associated with "poorer performance" on developmental screening tests at 36 months (β -0.08, 95% CI -0.13 to -0.02) and 60 months (β -0.06, 95% CI -0.13 to -0.02).

Earlier this month, Britain's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health released its guide on screen time for clinicians and parents, stating there is "essentially no evidence" to support the popular idea that screen time is directly "toxic" to one's health.

One co-author received grants from the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation, Alberta Innovates Health Solutions, the MaxBell Foundation, CanFASD, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

The group found that negative effects linked to screen time are mostly a result of choosing screen time over activities such as sleeping, eating well, exercising, and socializing, rather than a direct negative effect.

Nonetheless, he said, parents should balance screen time with other activities.