Toddlers Overexposed To Screens May Delay Developmental Skills


Digital screens are widely used today. In the past, only adults have access to it. However, nowadays, as young as 2 years old are already expose to digital screens.

Unfortunately, letting toddlers spend more time on digital screens can have detrimental effect on their developmental skills. This includes a delay in language development and problems with sociability.

Excessive Screen Time Is Harmful For Children’s Optimal Development

Earlier, we’ve mentioned a study saying that limiting screen time on children is good for learning and development. Moreover, children with less screen time can be beneficial for their heart health.

Furthermore, letting children use digital screens for a long period of time may cause a detrimental effect on their behaviors. And, that’s not all, a new study finds that overexposing children to digital screens may cause a delay in their language development and sociability problem.

The Study

In this study1, Canadian researchers found that excessive screen time can influence a child’s optimal development.

Canadian researchers were tracking almost 2,500 2-year old toddlers. They were trying to find a piece of evidence on a debate about how much screen time is considered safe for young children.

In the U.S. and Canada, however, experts are telling us that 18 months old or younger children should not use digital screens.

The results of this study support the directional association between screen time and child development. Recommendations include encouraging family media plans, as well as managing screen time, to offset the potential consequences of excess use.

Madigan S, Browne D, Racine N, Mori C, Tough S. Association Between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test. JAMA Pediatr. Published online January 28, 2019. DOI:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.5056

During a survey of mothers between 2011 and 2016, researchers found that 2 year old children are spending approximately 17 hours on screen each week.

On the other hand, researchers did not say anything on other factors such as proper parenting during the child’s remaining liesure time. Hopefully, in future studies, hopefully, researchers should include this factor to find out whether it may counter the bad effect of digital screens.

The Researchers Opinion

When these young children are looking at digital screens, it may make them missed important opportunities to practice and master basic yet important skills.

For instance, basic skills such as outdoor activities like running and climbing require them to physically active. Unfortunately, spending excessive time on digital screens require no physical movement but sitting.

Moreover, children spending most of their time on digital screens missed the opportunities to socialize with other children. This is an important skill children must learn to win friends and let them able to play with other children, and of course, learn to get along.

The author of the study says that due to this theory, even without solid proof, it makes sense to limit children’s time to spend on digital screens. Instead, encourage them to interfere with in a face-to-face interactions. It means allocating time just for the family to interact with each other, which is a good parenting technique.

How Much Time Is Too Much?

While it may not be a bad idea to let young children use digital screens, it can helpful and healthy for them to delay exposure. However, carefully choosing what type of media the children are consuming can be helpful for them.

However, there should be a limit. But, how much time is too much? The American Academy of Pediatrics has these recommendations on children based on age brackets.

  • Younger than 18 months, they must not use digital screens for video chatting.
  • 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs.
  • 6 years and older, put consistent time limit on social media and make sure screen time does not interfere their physical activities and sleep.
  • Allocate time together with digital screens for the family and set no screen strictly on bedrooms.
  • Have constant communication and discussion with the children about online safety, as well as learning how to respect other people both online and offline.

Additionally, you can use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Media Plan Tool to make a digital screen time for your child.

Final Thoughts

One of the many reasons parents allow their children to spend long hours on digital screens, they’re busy. Yes, that’s right.

However, it is the parents’ job to attend to their children. But, instead, it’s the digital screen that’s taking care of the child.

Unfortunately, this can led to many unwanted consequences both detrimental to physical and mental health of the child.

Hence, if you can’t totally avoid digital screen for your children, always put a limit and make sure they only consume valuable educational media.

For instance, instead of letting them play non-sense games, let them play the alphabet, alphabet, colors and shapes. There are many educational media that can help children develop mental skills.

Of course, always set a limit. Never allow your children to use digital screens in an unlimited time. Talk to them nicely. You’ll be surprise that the earlier you start doing this to them, the more responsive they become.

Don’t wait such time they achieve uncontrollable impulse of using digital screens. We’ve seen young children do not calm down until you hand them over your smartphone.

It may seem magical, right? But, it’s doing a bad chances in the child’s brain.


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