Screen Time Linked To Developmental Delays in Children

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Is screen time interfering with your child's sleep?

Dr Max Davie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: "We would, in the light of this paper, reiterate our advice that families spend time interacting as a family, that screens are not allowed to interfere with sleep, and that screen based interaction is no substitute for in person contact".

A study of 2,400 Canadian children found more screen time was linked to lower scores in "milestone" tests of communication, problem solving, interpersonal skills and physical coordination.

6 simple ways to get a handle on your kids' screen timeThe study simultaneously assessed child development at ages two, three and five by asking caregivers to complete the Ages and Stages questionnaire, which is a screening measure for a variety of different developmental outcomes.

Limitations included the research team's inability to account for screen time children experienced before age 2 and to distinguish between specific types of screen time, such as whether children were watching educational apps. But rather than banning devices completely, the study recommends simply limiting hours and setting "no screen" zones and times, which, in the long run, could even help develop healthier habits and attitudes towards devices.

Researchers, doctors, public health officials and parents are all trying to make sense of the impact of screen time on children.

The study seems to contradict a new guide released by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the United Kingdom earlier this month, which found that many claims about the dangers of screen time may be exaggerated.

Writing in the journal Jama Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Waterloo, the University of Calgary and Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute describe how they investigated the issue by looking at the screen time and development of more than 2,400 children between the ages of two and five.

Sheri Madigan, an assistant professor of psychology at University of Calgary in Canada, and her colleagues studied 2,441 mothers and children enrolled in the All Our Families study, which followed young children from ages two to five. As a mother of four, the youngest of which are two-year-old twins, she tries to keep their screen time to a minimum: four hours total on weekends, and on most weekdays, none at all. This didn't appear to be true, however - suggesting that the screen time might have contributed to developmental delays, and not that developmental delays might have contributed to kids getting extra screen time.

"We actually don't see the reverse association", Madigan said.

But, while the temptation to keep rowdy children quiet using TV and digital devices can be strong, parents need to focus on what's really important.

Madigan recommends parents learn more about screen time guidelines for children.

Although previous research demonstrated a link between screen time and poor academic performance, new research confirms long-term adverse effects.

The authors urged health professionals to work with families to develop "personalised media plans" created to place boundaries on children's screen time.

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