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More screen time for toddlers is tied to poorer development a few years later, study says

Screen time


(CNN) – Among toddlers, spending a lot of time staring at screens is linked with poorer performance on developmental screening tests later in childhood, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, found a direct association between screen time at ages 2 and 3 and development at 3 and 5.

Development includes growth in communication, motor skills, problem-solving and personal social skills, based on a screening tool called the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. Signs of such development can be seen in behaviors like being able to stack a small block or toy on top of another one.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limits on screen use for preschool children ages 2 to 5 to just one hour a day of high-quality programming.

“On average, the children in our study were viewing screens two to three hours per day. This means that the majority of the children in our sample are exceeding the pediatric guidelines of no more than one hour of high-quality programming per day,” said Sheri Madigan, an assistant professor and research chair in determinants of child development at the University of Calgary, who was first author of the study.

“Higher screen time viewing at 2 and 3 years of age was associated with children’s delays in meeting developmental milestones at 3 and 5 years of age, respectively,” she said. “This study shows that, when used in excess, screen time can have consequences for children’s development. Parents can think of screens like they do giving junk food to their kids: In small doses, it’s OK, but in excess, it has consequences.

“For older children, parents are encouraged to develop personalized media plans for their children, but the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that all children and teens need at least around eight hours of sleep, one hour of physical activity and time away from media each day.

A separate report released in 2017 by the nonprofit organization Common Sense Media found that children 8 and younger spend an average of two hours and 19 minutes a day with screen media.
Most children of all ages in the United States spend a total of about five to seven hours a day in front of a screen, including watching TV, working on a computer or playing video games, according to the US National Library of Medicine.

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