Too Much Screen Time a Damper on Child's Development

Randy Kelley
February 1, 2019

"On average, the children in our study were viewing screens two to three hours per day".

By law, childcare centers in West Virginia are prohibited from using screen media under the age of two and screen time is limited to 75 hours a week for each school-aged child.

Canadian psychologists concluded, "The present study examined developmental outcomes during a critical period of growth and maturation, revealing that screen time can impinge on children's ability to develop optimally". For example, when children are observing screens without an interactive or physical component, they are more sedentary and, therefore, not practicing gross motor skills, such as walking and running, which in turn may delay development in this area.

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. A similar result was found when children's screen time at three years old was compared with their development at five years.

This amount of time these children spend on screen far exceeded the recommendations of the Canadian Paediatric Society and American Academy of Pediatrics that children between 2 and 5 years old do not exceed more than one hour of high-quality programming per day, or less than seven hours per week. They analyzed how much screen time the children received, and how they fared on developmental screening tests, at ages two, three and five.

Researchers, doctors, public health officials and parents are all trying to make sense of the impact of screen time on children.

The researchers found that over time, children who spent more time using TV or computers did indeed show poorer performance on the developmental measures.

"Screens have become a significant concern for parents, so we wanted to find out more about how screen time was impacting children's developmental trajectories", Sheri Madigan, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Calgary and lead study author, told Healthline.

"Screen time should at least be an educational experience, not just a shiny distraction", Dimitriu said. "This study shows that, when used in excess, screen time can have consequences for children's development".

Is screen time interfering with your child's sleep?

Kalady said it's helpful to set up limits and expectations early, because it's easier to start off with healthy screen time habits than it is to scale back once you've already begun. "And, as a generation, we're increasingly pressed for time".

Madigan recommends parents learn more about screen time guidelines for children. That all adds up to an overload of screen time.

Dr Max Davie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: "We would, in the light of this paper, reiterate our advice that families spend time interacting as a family, that screens are not allowed to interfere with sleep, and that screen based interaction is no substitute for in person contact".

She recommends that families establish a media plan, sitting down together and deciding how often, where and how devices are going to be used.

Reduce children's screen time by encouraging activities such as reading, physical play, arts, and crafts.

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