Navigating Screen Time for Kids: What New Research Reveals

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A new study and existing research shed light on the contentious issue of screen time for kids, revealing mixed findings. Let us explore more about this!

While screen time guidelines have evolved over the years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) no longer provides specific limits on screen time, emphasizing the importance of the quality of interactions with digital media rather than quantity.

Recent Japanese Study Raises Concerns

In September, the Japan Environment and Children’s Study examined data from 57,980 children and concluded that increased screen time, particularly from TV and DVDs starting at age 1, had a negative impact on later development.

The study recommended providing social support to families relying on screen time to help manage their usage.

Another study of 7,097 children, published in JAMA Pediatrics in August, reported that children exposed to one to four hours of screen time daily at age 1 faced a higher risk of developmental delays in communication, fine motor skills, problem-solving, and personal and social skills by age 2.

Researchers suggested considering different domains of developmental delay separately in discussions on screen time and child development.

Obesity and Excessive Screen Time

A meta-analysis of 45 studies published in the Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition in January found that children with over four hours of daily screen time were more likely to be overweight or obese than those with less screen exposure. The most screen-addicted kids were 1.2 times more likely to be obese.

Screen Time For Kids Impact on Development Milestones

A 2019 cohort study involving 2,441 mothers and children highlighted that excessive screen time in children aged 24 to 36 months was linked to poor performance on developmental milestone screening tests at 36 and 60 months. Pediatricians and healthcare practitioners recommended guiding parents on appropriate screen exposure amounts and discussing potential consequences of excessive use.

Sleep, Effortful Control, and Screen Time

Research has consistently associated increased screen time with poor sleep quality in children. However, a 2020 study of 547 twin children published in Psychological Science found that the effect of screen time on sleep depended on the child’s level of effortful control. Kids with lower effortful control had less sleep when using screens at night compared to those with high effortful control.

The Complexity of Screen Time

Experts agree that the relationship between screen time and child development is nuanced. Dr. Naline Lai, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, suggests that emotional attachment to screens may be a key concern for parents. If children become upset when screen time ends, it may be time for a break.

Setting Family Rules and Guidelines

Pediatricians emphasize the importance of establishing household rules for screen time. Dr. Jennifer Cross, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, recommends rules considering school-related screen use.

Adelle Cadieux, a pediatric psychologist, emphasizes the privilege of screen time and suggests that parents set limits on usage, content, and screen time duration.

Using screen time as a reward for good behavior is another strategy recommended by Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician.

In the era of ubiquitous screens, parents face the challenge of balancing educational and recreational screen time while ensuring their children’s healthy development.

While the research provides valuable insights, experts stress the need for flexibility and tailored approaches to screen time management.


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