TODAY aired a disturbing segment this morning, 11/5/2019, on studies showing how too much screen time may be changing the brains of preschoolers. A new report by JAMA Pediatrics has concerning findings of how digital devices may be having a negative impact on the developing brains of young children. NBC senior national correspondent Kate Snow joins TODAY to report, and NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres offers advice to parents.
At Cincinnati Children’s’ Hospital a study was conducted with 47 young children (ages 3-5) using phones, tablets, and television and the effects screen time has on their brains. Their parents kept a log of how much screen time each child had been exposed to and the kind of content they had watched.
The results of the study of those children exposed to screen time more than 1 hour a day, showed lower levels of development in the white matter of the brain where cells connect to nerve impulses. This area shows how quickly nerve impulses fire where literacy, cognitive skills, and language develops.
Kids with more screen time had difficulty with words, naming objects, and written tests.
This comes as alarming news since American kids typically spend 2-4 hours a day on screen time.
Researchers still aren’t clear whether screen time is responsible for this developmental problem or that we are simply taking too much time away from things children need:
- Reading to children
- Cuddling and singing
- Interacting with their parents
- Unstructured playtime
Dr. John Torres, medical correspondent for NBC News says, “The American Association of Pediatrics feels these electronics aren’t bad (when monitored) but need to be used appropriately.”
Torres recommends amounts of screen time:
- 0-18 months-only interact with others (siblings, parents, grandparents) for short face time.
- 18-24 months-only short periods of high-quality screen time (ex: Sesame Street).
- 2-5 years-no more than one hour a day of monitored screen time.
What to Avoid:
- Get media out of their rooms.
- Face-paced programs.
- Never soothe a child with media.
Torres says parents should never use media as a babysitter.
When parents are with their children, they need to also monitor their screen time to be an example.
Photo courtesy of Bing via momtastic.com