NOV 04, 2019 1:42 PM PST

Can Screen-Time Structurally Affect a Child's Brain?

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics concludes that preschool-age children who have more screen time negatively impact regions of the brain involved with support language and other literacy skills.

"This study raises questions as to whether at least some aspects of screen-based media use in early childhood may provide sub-optimal stimulation during this rapid, formative state of brain development," says John Hutton, MD, director of the, Reading & Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children's and lead author of the study. "While we can't yet determine whether screen time causes these structural changes or implies long-term neurodevelopmental risks, these findings warrant further study to understand what they mean and how to set appropriate limits on technology use."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children younger than 18 months should avoid use of screen media such as tablets, smart phones, and any other related devices, children 18 to 24 months of age should limited high-quality programming digital media if desired, and children ages 2 to 5 years should limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs.

In the study, 47 healthy children (27 girls and 20 boys) were recruited between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. These children completed standard cognitive tests measured by a diffusion tensor MRI that provides an estimate of the structural integrity in the brain. Published key findings shows that there was significantly lower expressive language with more screen time as well as lower brain white matter involved in executive function.

"Screen-based media use is prevalent and increasing in home, childcare and school settings at ever younger ages," says Dr. Hutton. "These findings highlight the need to understand effects of screen time on the brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain development in early childhood, so that providers, policymakers and parents can set healthy limits."

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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