Screen Time for Young Children Negatively Impacts Development

Continuing in on the topic of screen time from yesterday:

After the recent arrival of our youngest child I’ve been thinking a lot about screen time for children. When it should be introduced? How should that be done? I’ve pondered what my wife and I have done up to this point. At this time none of our children get any screen time. To be clear: that means no TV, no tablets, or time on my wife or I’s phone’s. I understand that we are outliers in this decision and not everyone has a lifestyle structured the way we do. Furthermore, this was a decision we made before our kids were born. So there was never a time of “withdrawal” from screens that we had to work through with our kids. Our goal is not to keep this structure forever. That isn’t necessary, nor is it a reasonable expectation, but it is how we’ve chosen to arrange our family life for this season.

I have always felt this decision was good, but that doesn’t mean it was required. It has been a few years since I’ve done any research into this so I decided to do a little bit of digging. There are certainly lots of differing opinions on when screens should be introduced and how much time is OK for kids. The AAP even has their own list of recommendations. I am by no means hard line about this subject, but there is a recent (to me) study which raises alarms.

From Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center recent study:

Higher ScreenQ scores were significantly associated with lower expressive language, the ability to rapidly name objects (processing speed) and emergent literacy skills.

Higher ScreenQ scores were associated with lower brain white matter integrity, which affects organization and myelination — the process of forming a myelin sheath around a nerve to allow nerve impulses to move more quickly — in tracts involving language executive function and other literacy skills.

The part I find most concerning is “associated with lower brain white matter.” In cruder terms—causes damage to development of the brain. I by no means consider this study conclusive and it also doesn’t gather any evidence on the long term effects of this development like this. Meaning, is the development of these Children just deferred or is it permanent damage?

Time will tell the long term results of a generation of Children raised by screens. Until we know what those biological effects, I’m going to err on the side of caution.