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Screen Time: Dos and Don’ts

March 26, 2024

Screen time, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is the “time spent using a device such as a computer, television, or gaming console.”

With the recent advances in technology, the number of gadgets and screens has drastically increased. This increase has undoubtedly made communication and access to knowledge very convenient. At the fingertips, but at the same time, it has also slowly started to show its negative effects, especially in young children.

A US study based on nationwide data reported an average of 2.2 hours of TV watching time among children below 3 years old. Every hour of TV viewing was associated with detrimental effects on subsequent cognitive development.

Book an appointment to consult Dr. Meghna Manocha for pediatric & Neonatology concerns

Studies have shown that screen time may

  • Affect cognitive skills, attention and brain development just like any other substance abuse. You can see withdrawal symptoms in teenagers who are used to 5 to 6 hours of screen time and then suddenly grounded with loss of screen-time privileges
  • Be associated with delayed speech, especially expressive speech. In my clinical practice, lately, I have been observing healthy 12-36 month-olds with no cognitive defects or developmental delays but delays in speech and language, especially expressive language.
  • Cause obesity due to prolonged sitting and decreased physical activity.

The infant and toddler brains are the most neuroplastic, almost like sponges that absorb anything that comes their way through their five senses. By two years of age, they form over one hundred trillion synaptic connections. Hence, parental awareness at this age is necessary to provide the right stimulus to the developing brain.

Studies have also shown that infants learn better through parental communication than through electronic media.

As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is strongly advised to avoid screen time for children below 2 years of age and limit it to a maximum of two hours for older children. These guidelines are echoed by the Australian Department of Health and the WHO, who recommend no television for children under 2 years and no more than 1 hour daily for children between 2 and 5 years old.

Many of us may not even be aware that what seems like a trivial activity to occupy our children or distract them, especially during mealtimes, may be associated with poor subsequent cognitive development.

In the first two years of your child’s life, choose books and toys over screen time, and strictly avoid all screen time until your child learns to speak full sentences.

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