A new Canadian study has linked increased screen time with delayed development in children, adding new fuel to the debate over how long is too long for kids to spend in front of their electronic devices.
Researchers from the University of Waterloo, University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute said toddlers who spent more time watching a screen at 2 years old did worse on developmental markers than those who spent less time watching a screen.
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“What is new in this study is that we are studying really young children, so aged 2-5, when brain development is really rapidly progressing and also child development is unfolding so rapidly,” Dr. Sheri Madigan told the Guardian. “We are getting at these lasting effects.”
The authors of the study, who tested 2,400 children, say parents should be cautious about how long they allow their kids to spend on their devices.
“Excessive screen time can impinge on children’s ability to develop optimally,” the study said. “It is recommended that pediatricians and healthcare practitioners guide parents on appropriate amounts of screen exposure and discuss potential consequences of excessive screen use.”
In the study, 2-year-olds spent about 17 hours a week in front of a screen. That amount increased to 25 hours a week at 3 before falling to 11 hours a week at 5-years-old.
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Researchers say a pattern quickly came into focus: the more time children spent in front of their devices, the worse they did on tests.
“When young children are observing screens, they may be missing important opportunities to practice and master interpersonal, motor and communication skills,” researchers concluded.
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But not everyone is on board with the results. Critics claim the study doesn’t take into consideration what the children were using the screens for or other factors such as sleep pattern or family income.