More screen time for toddlers more problems

Study links excessive screen time to developmental delays in children

On average children spent about 17 hours a week in front of screens at two years old, increasing to nearly 25 hours a week at three years, before falling to 11 hours a week at five years of age.

"It looks at communication skills, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, and the social and emotional 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. Parents can think of screens like they do giving junk food to their kids: "In small doses, it's OK, but in excess, it has consequences".

Pictured: A baby plays with a mobile phone while his twin brother drinks juice. These numbers are far more than the recommended screen times prescribed by the America Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society.

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While some screen time, such as games and programming geared towards learning and development, may be beneficial to children, experts say that screen time can often become a crutch for parents.

To determine that, gold-standard experimental designs that randomly assign children to receive or not receive screen time, and then see how they develop, are needed.

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. But before you conclude that this proves how such devices are bad, the study goes into detail on the link between screen time and learning. As a mother of four, the youngest of which are two-year-old twins, she tries to keep their screen time to a minimum: four hours total on weekends, and on most weekdays, none at all.

According to Kalady, the early years are critical for children to spend quality face-to-face time with parents and caregivers, as this time together enables children to learn how to interact both verbally and nonverbally. "When they're in front of their screens, these important parent-child interactions aren't happening, and this can delay or derail children's development".

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The new study provides insight into how technology impacts individual young people over time, "but increases in screen time observed here indicate between about 0.36% 0.64% of the variability in decreases in the developmental outcome".

"Most of the research on children and screens has been cross-sectional, meaning that associations are based on a particular snapshot in time and don't reveal if there are lasting influences of screen time on children's outcomes", Madigan said.

Sit with kids and participate in their screen time, rather than using it as a babysitter. Those guidelines include avoiding digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months, except for video chatting.

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.

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"When you are trying to process information coming at you from screen media, it may be too advanced for you", Radesky told MedPage Today.

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