In a world where technology has integrated into everything, it’s hard to limit the amount of screen exposure one gets. Too much screen time can lead to many health problems, especially for children. Children of the 21st century have never lived without smartphones, tablets or the internet. This constant use of screens can actually change their brains, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Limiting screen time isn’t all that simple. Screen time includes watching TV programmes, videos, gaming, using a computer, tablet, phone or any other screen-based device. Children seem to have an addiction to these devices. A survey published by JAMA Pediatrics that tracked nearly 2,500 two-year-olds found at the age of two, children were clocking up around 17 hours of screen time per week. At the age of three, screen time increased to about 25 hours per week.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found significant evidence from their Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. This study followed more than 11,000 nine and ten year olds with their screen time. The ABCD study also tested children’s brains in magnetic resonance imaging scanners. The MRI scans found significant differences in the brains of some children who reported using smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day. Children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests.
Dr. Ellen Selkie, a medicine physician at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, commented to Healthline in their Is Screen Time Altering the Brains of Children article, “the only conclusion we can draw right now is that two things are happening at the same time. But it’s hard to tell whether one caused the other.”
In other words, excessive screen time may lower a child’s academic performance. But it could also be that children who have difficulty with certain mental tasks may be more drawn to screens for some reason.
Limiting your child’s screen time at home is just half the battle. Most elementary and middle schools use tablets and chromebooks for learning. In 2012 Chromebooks made up less than a single percent of the education market. In 2017 however, Chromebooks made up 60 percent of all U.S. education shipments.
It is unclear weather using screens for strictly academic reasons causes more of a positive or negative affect on the brain. Parents aren’t keeping track of in school screen time, which can easily bump their child’s screen time up by one or two hours. As of 2018, the APA recommends parents allow their child no more than two hours of screen time a day.
In today’s day and age, it’s hard to go a hot minute without constantly checking our phones, TVs, tablets, smart watches etc. Professionals recommend setting a ‘media-free time’ after dinner or before bedtime to help with screen addictions. Doctors and professionals also warn that screen addictions are very real and many families report their children glued to the phone or TV. In this circumstance, the best thing parents can do it delay giving their child a smartphone for as long as possible.