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The impact of screen time on children’s development

According to Common Sense Media, over half of all kids aged eight and younger own tablets and use them daily for approximately 2.25 hours.

Also, Early results from a significant National Institutes of Health (NIH) study that started in 2018 show that children who engaged in screen-related activities for more than two hours per day performed worse on thinking and language tests.

It further stated that some children who engaged in screen-related activities for more than seven hours per day had their cortex, the part of the brain associated with critical thinking and reasoning, thin.

The pediatrician and developmental and behavioral pediatrics specialist Jennifer F. Cross works at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital, also had this to say:

“If young children spend most of their time using an iPad, smartphone, or television—all highly entertaining…

…Rather than engaging in non-electronic activities like playing with toys to foster imagination and creativity, exploring the outdoors, and playing with other children to develop appropriate social skills, engaging them in these activities can be challenging.

Dr. Cross, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine, discussed the effects of screen time on children’s growing brains and what parents and other carers can do in an interview with Health Matters.

Young children learn by investigating their surroundings, observing the adults in their lives, and then copying them.

A child’s capacity to keep and engage in the ordinary everyday activities they need to learn about the world may be hindered by excessive screen time, creating a type of “tunnel vision” that may harm their general development.

If all they do is stare at their smartphone, kids won’t learn anything about the world around them. This will impact their learning capacity, social interactions, and linguistic growth.

What age is suitable for introducing screens to kids?

Children under the age of 18 to 24 months should not use screens, except for video chatting with relatives, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Additionally, the AAP advises restricting screen time for preschoolers, ages 2 to 5, to only one hour of high-quality television daily.

Recommended Screen Time by Age

Those 18 Months and Under

Refrain from using any screen media besides video conferencing.

2 – 5 Years

Limit your daily screen time to one hour of high-quality programming. To assist their kids in comprehending what they are seeing and relating it to their surroundings, parents should co-watch media with their kids.

6 – 12 Years

Set clear restrictions on the amount of time and the sorts of media that can be used. Ensure that media does not replace healthy habits like getting enough sleep, exercising, and engaging in other healthy behaviors.

12 Years and Above

Set aside media-free periods for activities like dining or driving and media-free spaces throughout the house, like bedrooms.

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Negative Impacts of Screen on Kids

Excessive screen usage can severely restrict a child’s ability to engage in unique daily activities, restricting their overall interest in non-screen-related topics/facts.

According to scientific literature, approximately one in four school-age children have developmental delays or impairments, such as communication difficulties, language issues, poor motor skills, and emotional deficiencies.

Approximately 98% of youngsters in the US between the ages of 0 and 8 spend more than 2 hours each day using screens.

According to a new National Institutes of Health study, kids who spend about two hours per day in front of screens have weaker language processing and thinking skills.

Additionally, the study discovered that youngsters who spend more than 7 hours per day in front of a screen experience a thinned-out portion of their brain (cortex) that controls reasoning and critical thinking.

Similarly, another study comprising 2441 kids aged 2 to 5 years discovered a link between too much screen usage and subpar results on developmental screening tests in kids between the ages of 2 and 3.

The following are some possible effects of screen time on kids’ development:

Communication and language abilities

Language development proliferates between the ages of one and two and a half and three. Studies have shown that toddlers learn language best when they engage and interact with adults talking and playing with them.

Additionally, there is some evidence that kids who watch a lot of television in the first few years of primary school do worse on reading exams and may have attention problems- Dr. Jennifer Cross.

This is because face-to-face contact with carers is where children learn language and communication skills, and screen time may cause children to have fewer interactions.

Excessive screen time may also harm cognitive development, particularly in executive functioning, attention span, and problem-solving abilities.

Physical health

Problems with physical health, including obesity, bad posture, and eye strain, may also be caused by excessive screen usage.

Social skills

According to research, children’s emotional growth and social abilities may suffer with too much screen usage. This is because screen usage may cut into how much time kids spend interacting with their classmates and carers in person.

Emotional Impacts

Excessive screen time can modulate a child’s emotional behaviors in various ways. An overreliance on digital media may limit their motivation and creative abilities.

Because of the rise in screen addiction, kids are less frequently able to be amused by neighbors, which eventually can lead to irritation, anxiety, and impulsive behaviors.

Additionally, too much screen time can impair a youngster’s capacity to learn social skills and read facial expressions, which affects how empathic the child is overall.

Contrary to reading a book, where a child has ample time to consider the significance of the words or pictures

A child’s ability to focus and pay attention is significantly impacted by watching fast-moving movies or graphics on the screen.

Sleep effects

Importantly, prolonged exposure to blue light from screens can prevent melatonin from being secreted, which prevents sleep.

As a result, a child’s cognitive development may retard. For example, one study found that babies aged 6 to 12 months exposed to screens in the evening had much less time to sleep at night than those without.

This is because screens’ blue light inhibits melatonin, which can prevent sleep from happening. Additionally, watching TV or playing video games keeps our bodies and minds awake, active, and less sleep-ready.

(Tablets and smartphones will suppress the melatonin more than TVs because the screen, and that blue light, is closer to the face.)

Lack of sleep and excessive social media use can negatively impact student behavior and academic performance. The link between excessive screen time, sleep deprivation, and obesity has also been demonstrated.

Obesity can affect one’s self-worth, resulting in social isolation and increased screen time.

How can parents limit their kids’ screen time?

Instead of handing their child a tablet or phone, parents are advised to turn on a quick episode of Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood – something entertaining and informative that models strong social skills through characters interacting and playing nicely.

It’s also ideal for watching educational television with the child, so you can talk about what they’re seeing and learning.

These and the point listed below can be used to limit your kids’ or wards’ screen time

1. Co-watch with your Kids more often

The best thing to do is allow your kids’ screen time to play the game or watch the show with them so they can grasp what they’re seeing.

For example, when someone on a show sings a song, join in with your youngster and comment on what you hear and see. Interacting with them after the presentation will make them more likely to remember what you said.

2. Select media carefully

To help you choose the best options for your children, go to organizations like Common Sense Media for reviews of age-appropriate apps, games, and programs.

Children should generally avoid using YouTube. If left to their gadgets, children are frequently more adept than their parents in locating their favorite films that link to other videos.

This can result in hours of watching endless footage. In addition, children can watch nearly anything on the website since it is so loosely monitored; at best, the content isn’t very educational and might contain violent or inappropriate material.

3. Avoid using screens at dinner, family time, or bedtime

Screens should be avoided in bedrooms for preteens and teenagers since late-night screen use can interfere with sleep.

Only use screens in the car if you are taking a long trip. Consider establishing a screen-free zone for your family that includes an agreed-upon curfew. It’s crucial to maintain a balance between online and offline time.

4. Keep phone usage to a minimum

Children imitate their parents’ behavior. Since their parent(s) are the most significant people in their lives at a young age, they will imitate any behavior they observe.

They will want to do the same if they follow you spending all day each day in front of a screen because they will assume that it is acceptable.

5. Stress the need to get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise

All three are necessary for optimal brain growth, development, and health for both children and adults. And all three can be impacted by too much screen time.

For example, evidence shows that kids who spend more time in front of computers eat more fast food, fewer fruits, and vegetables, get less sleep, and do less physical activity. As a result, it’s crucial to include screen.


Parents and other adults must monitor their kids’ screen time and ensure it balances outdoor play, peer interaction, and creative and educational pursuits.

For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises children under 18 months to refrain from using screens except for video chatting. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 limit their daily screen time to no more than one hour.

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