Screen time impact on kids’ white matter

Henrietta Strickland
November 7, 2019

"This is the first study to document associations between higher screen use and lower measures of brain structure and skills in preschool-aged kids", lead author Dr. John Hutton said about the study.

2-5 years-no more than one hour a day of monitored screen time.

Excessive screen time is linked to lower development in brain's white matter, according to study.

Higher ScreenQ scores were significantly associated with lower expressive language, the ability to rapidly name objects, and emergent literacy skills.

The study was conducted from August 2017 to November 2018 on participants recruited at a USA children's hospital, and took pains to note that screen time implications for brain development on young kids still remain unknown despite found associations.

Screen time use by infants, toddlers and preschoolers has exploded over the last decade, concerning experts about the impact of television, tablets and smartphones on these critical years of rapid brain development.

The AAP recommendations take into account how much time children should spend in front of screens, a child's access to screens (including portable devices and content), and who children are with and how they interact when they are looking at screens.

Hutton said good brain development really depends on practicing important real-world experiences, such as reading, playing outside, interacting with caregivers, and imaginative play.

Screen Q was created for the children after consultations with their parents on their screen time. "Kids who report five hours of screen time could have parents who use 10 hours of screen time".

Higher ScreenQ scores were associated with reduced integrity of white matter in the brain, which affects organization and myelination, the process of forming a myelin sheath around a nerve to allow nerve impulses to move more quickly, in tracts that involve the executive function of language and other literacy skills. Load up some videos for the kids to watch and some pre-school games they can play and even the most rambunctious kid can sit through a dinner at a nice restaurant. "But it's important for parents to know that these results don't show that heavy media use causes 'brain damage, '" Radesky wrote.

And in teenagers and adults, "small doses of screen time can be a mental health-positive way of relaxing, reducing stress, and connecting socially to friends and family members".

"If your teenager is generally actively participating, getting homework done, having face-to-face interaction with family members and friends, and has extracurricular and physical activity ... parents can relax a little [about screen time] ... and reduce the guilt", Anderson advised. It starts from 1 to 19, with 1 being the screen time within the scientifically prescribed one hour limit.

Watch or be engaged with your child when possible during screen time and choose high-quality programming.

Also, parents should have times when screens are turned off, and bedrooms should be media-free.

In fact, an AAP report published last year recommended that doctors prescribe a daily dose of playtime for kids, noting that average playtime among U.S. kids has dropped by as much as 25% during the last 30 years, while screen time has increased significantly. "We're starting to see a lot more children that have these very dysfunctional social patterns, and they're more responsive to media".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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