Every time a new study is published about how screen time affects our children, I am bounced between the pros and cons of my kids using screens and the guilt of having more than one TV in our house.
I pretty much come out the other side with more questions than answers. Studies continually tell us that screen time impacts our children's brains and learning capabilities. I think we all know that considering attention spans are limited, imaginations are loosening, and emotional regulation is altering.
The problem is that our children are the generation who are being raised on screens; from tablets to phones, computers, gaming consoles, and a mountain of TV streamed directly into their hands and heads. There is no escaping screen time. So, the big question is, just how is screen time altering our kids’ brains?
A 2018 study determined that children who used screens for more than two hours a day scored lower on literacy and language tests in comparison to their counterparts who used screens less. The brain scans of these children showed a thinning of the outermost layer of the brain which ordinarily does not happen until maturity.
Furthermore, a 2019 study, uncovered that babies and toddlers who spent time looking at tablets, phones, or other screens were not developing cognitively as well as they should. The transfer of connection to screens from people has an effect in this instance as a baby's ordinary development in line with their interaction with others becomes limited. Early language and literacy skills are happening later as a result.
I may also throw in various research papers in the last few years which tell us that screen time is heavily linked with obesity, mental health issues, poor social skills, and a myriad of other health and emotional concerns.
Now, let’s have a quick look at why stark headlines surrounding new research papers should be taken with a pinch of salt. Many studies are not longitudinal in nature, meaning the development of our child's brain is not taken into consideration for the long term, meaning more research must be done.
And so, what do we know about how screen time impacts our children’s brains? Yes, we can not deny that screentime can have a negative effect on development and behaviours. But no, we cannot ultimately ban the TV, the tablet, or our kid's social lifeline - their phone. The balance in understanding how to limit our child's screen time is to continually engage with them.
Promote healthy behaviours and healthy choices by encouraging a balance of sleep, screen time, and exercise. And nurturing these boundaries as a family.