One side effect of the proliferation in handheld electronics (smartphones, tablets, etc.) over the last decade has been an enormous increase in the amount of screen time use by children under the age of five.
For the first time, MRI scans have revealed how increased screen time can impact brain development during these formative years. (WGN-TV)
Now a new study scanned the brains of children 3 to 5 years old and found those who used screens more than the recommended one hour a day without parental involvement had lower levels of development in the brain’s white matter — an area key to the development of language, literacy and cognitive skills.
“This is the first study to document associations between higher screen use and lower measures of brain structure and skills in preschool-aged kids,” said lead author Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The study was published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
“This is important because the brain is developing the most rapidly in the first five years,” Hutton said. “That’s when brains are very plastic and soaking up everything, forming these strong connections that last for life.”
Studies have shown excessive TV viewing is linked to the inability of children to pay attention and think clearly, while increasing poor eating habits and behavioral problems. Associations have also been shown between excessive screen time and language delay, poor sleep, impaired executive function, and a decrease in parent-child engagement. [emphasis added]
Exacerbating matters is that households with kids having the greatest amounts of screentime tend to grow up in families where parents spend excessive time on smart devices, further decreasing time for quality interaction.