The temptation is substantial for parents of young children to pacify the child with an electronic device.
Your little angel is being less than angelic at the grocery store, or during a long car ride. You know that a game on your smartphone will get them to settle down. What stressed-out parent could resist? Well, you should resist all the same.
Among toddlers, spending a lot of time staring at screens is linked with poorer performance on developmental screening tests later in childhood, according to a new study.
The study, published on Monday in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics, found a direct association between screen time at ages 2 and 3 and development at 3 and 5.
Development includes growth in communication, motor skills, problem-solving and personal social skills, based on a screening tool called the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. Signs of such development can be seen in behaviors like being able to stack a small block or toy on top of another one.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limits on screen use for preschool children ages 2 to 5 to just one hour a day of high-quality programming, CNN.com reported Monday.
“On average, the children in our study were viewing screens 2 to 3 hours per day. This means that the majority of the children in our sample are exceeding the pediatric guidelines of no more than 1 hour of high-quality programming per day,” said Sheri Madigan, an assistant professor and research chair in determinants of child development at the University of Calgary, who was first author of the study.
“Higher screen time viewing at 2 and 3 years of age was associated with children’s delays in meeting developmental milestones at 3 and 5 years of age, respectively,” she said. “This study shows that, when used in excess, screen time can have consequences for children’s development. Parents can think of screens like they do giving junk food to their kids: In small doses, it’s OK, but in excess, it has consequences.”
In other words: It’s OK to give in to that temptation during the fussiness or acting out in the grocery store. But don’t make a habit of it.
If you want more evidence beyond the AMA and the AAP, consider this:
In 2007, Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, implemented a cap on screen time when his daughter started developing an unhealthy attachment to a video game, BusinessInsider.com reported in February 2018. Later it became Gates family policy not to allow kids to have their own phones until they turned 14. Today, the average American child receives their first phone at about age 10.
Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple until his death in 2012, revealed in a 2011 New York Times interview that he prohibited his kids from using the newly-released iPad. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home,” Jobs told reporter Nick Bilton.
Jobs, an avid fan of his technology, still knew the power it held and banned his kids from using it.
Tim Cook, the current Apple CEO, said in January 2018 that he doesn’t allow his nephew to join online social networks. The comment followed those of other tech luminaries, who have condemned social media as detrimental to society.
Cook later conceded Apple products aren’t meant for constant use.
“I’m not a person that says we’ve achieved success if you’re using it all the time,” he said. “I don’t subscribe to that at all.”
If the titans of Silicon Valley — the ones who became billionaires by developing personal computers and smartphones — minimized their kids’ screen time, shouldn’t you?
So make sure your toddlers and preschoolers spend more time with LEGOs and books in their hands than electronic devices.
Given Cook’s comment about Apple devices not being meant for constant use, Mom and Dad should probably reduce screen time and increase book-reading time, too.
“Higher screen time viewing at 2 and 3 years of age was associated with children’s delays in meeting developmental milestones at 3 and 5 years of age, respectively.” Sheri Madigan, assistant professor and research chair in determinants of child development at the University of Calgary