A research released today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Paediatrics found that children as young as one who were exposed to more than four hours of screen time per day showed deficits in communication and problem-solving abilities by the ages of two and four.
One year olds who spent more time in front of screens than their peers had developmental deficits in fine motor and personal and social skills compared to their counterparts two years later. By age 4, though, the delays seemed to have disappeared.
Babies who were exposed to greater screen time were also more likely to have delays in their development, although this research did not establish that screen time directly caused the delays. Experts say that the importance of one-on-one interactions for early infants may account for the observed trend.
Yale Child Study Centre developmental psychologist David J. Lewkowicz argues that babies learn the most from face-to-face interactions with their parents, including how words, tone of voice, and physical feedback combine to convey language and meaning.
Researchers in Japan sent surveys to the guardians of approximately 8,000 preschoolers to ascertain the relationship between their children’s growth and their exposure to electronic media. Babies of first-time moms who were younger, from lower-income families with lower levels of education, and who had experienced postpartum depression were shown to be exposed to greater amounts of screen usage.
The research found a “dose-response association” between infant screen time and delayed development; the more time infants spent in front of screens, the higher their risk of showing abnormalities in cognitive and behavioural development.
Researchers did not differentiate between screen time that was meant to educate and that which was meant to enjoy. The researchers suggested that this approach be pursued in future studies.
Dr. Lewkowicz said that he was often approached by parents about the appropriate quantity of screen time for their children. His advice was to have “as many face-to-face conversations as possible” with their kids.
He argued that it was unreasonable to expect parents to prevent all screen time for their infants, claiming, “No parent would listen to that.” Everything in moderation, however. Including much time spent interacting with actual people.”