Study Finds Screen Time Delays Development In Young Children

Handing children a phone or iPad to play with may seem an easy solution when parents are busy, but a new study finds it could affect their development.

Based on data from 7,097 children published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the study highlights the link between increased screen time at age one and subsequent developmental delays in communication and problem-solving.

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In Australia, most children spend more than the recommended two-hour daily limit for screen time, including watching television, on computers and playing electronic games.

The research has revealed that children with more than four hours of screen time per day experienced developmental delays in communication and problem-solving domains across the ages of two and four. 

The study finds that children who had spent four or more hours with screens were 4.78 times more likely to have underdeveloped communication skills, 1.74 times more likely to have subpar fine motor skills, and two times more likely to have underdeveloped personal and social skills by age two.

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Dr Jason Nagata, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, told CNN News that the study was critical as it had a large sample size of children “who’ve been followed for several years”.

“The study fills an important gap because it identifies specific developmental delays (in skills) such as communication and problem-solving associated with screen time,” Dr Nagata said.

The study has also raised hypotheses about the observed associations. One theory suggests that developmental delays in certain domains at age two might catch up by age four.

“Passive screen viewing that doesn’t have an interactive or physical component, children are more likely to be sedentary and then aren’t able to practice motor skills.”

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