While TV and tablets may seem like the best babysitter, too much screen time is not the best for physical and mental health in kids. Researchers are frantically trying to learn more and more about the effects of technology on the population and there is so much more to learn about the pros and cons of TV, tablets and smart phones on the developing mind. While there is a lot of potential in learning tools created by these smart devices, too much of anything is not good. Also, there is strong evidence to suggest that screens are not an effective learning tool for babies and toddlers but may displace face-to-face interaction which actually helps infants learn.
While research is still trying to catch up with this new age of technology, there is already strong evidence to suggest a correlation on these negative impacts.
- Infants with increased screen time between 24mo and 36mo showed poorer performance on behavioral, cognitive and social developmental screening tests at age 36mo.
- In teens, screen time more than 2 hours a day has been linked with depressive symptoms
- Moderate evidence linking increased screen time to poorer quality of life, higher caloric intake and less healthy diets.
- In a Japanese study, an association found between screen time exposure at 1 year old and Autism Spectrum Disorder at 3 years. (Full article linked below)
*Note: Keep in mind, “correlation/association”, does not necessarily mean “causation”.
Based on American Academy of Pediatrics, WHO, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry here are some guidelines to help limit the amount of screen time in kids.
- 0-24mo: Limit to only video chatting along with an adult (for example with a relative out of town)
- 2-5yo: Limit non-education videos to 1 hour a day on weekdays and 3 hours on weekends.
- 6 years and older: Less than 2 hours per day of non-educational purposes. Focus on establishing healthy habits.
Some other tips that help establish healthy habits especially for older kids include:
- Turn off all screens during meals and family gatherings
- Utilize parental control settings
- Avoid using screens to stop tantrums or use as a pacifier
- 30-60min prior to bedtime, turn off screens and remove from bedroom
- Encourage kids to learn sports, music, art or other activities that don’t involve screens
- Encourage using screens in ways that build creativity and connection with family and friends.
- Set an example for your own healthy screen habits
- Consider your child’s maturity level and habits and decide what is best for each individual
Take home message: Less screen time at a young age is important. Establish healthy habits early on 🙂
Association Between Screen Time Exposure in Children at 1 Year of Age and Autism Spectrum Disorder at 3 Years of Age: The Japan Environment and Children’s Study | Autism Spectrum Disorders | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network