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Screen Time Exposure For Very Young Children Has Doubled Since The Late 90s

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Young children are spending more time in front of a screen, according to a new study. Researchers found that the amount of screen time of children under the age of 2 has doubled since the 90s.

Despite the prevalence and accessibility of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, children are spending more time watching television.

Analyzing Children's Exposure To Screens

According to a study published on Monday, Feb. 18, in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers pulled data from the Child Development Supplement Panel Study of Income Dynamics at the University of Michigan. From 1997 to 2014, parents observed the amount of time their children in front of a screen and logged it into a written diary.

The researchers found that the daily screen time of children under the age of 2 went from 1.32 hours in 1997 to 3.05 hours in 2014. Moreover, television outpaced smartphones and tablets — children spent an average of 2.5 hours in front of their television in 2014 compared to only half an hour in 1997.

For children 3 to 5 years old, their average screen time did not significantly change over the past 17 years. The age group logged an average of 2.5 hours a day in front of a screen.

"There is growing concern over the amount of time that children, particularly very young children, spend watching shows and in front of screens," said Weiwei Chen, an assistant professor at the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Florida International University and a co-author of the study. "Our findings were surprising as it feels like mobile devices are omnipresent, but televisions are still the most common way for young children to consume media."

Chen added that in 1997, screen time was included television, video games, and computers. By 2014, smartphones, tablets, electronic readers (e-readers), and learning devices were added.

Right now, the list of devices is even longer. The researchers warned that their data might be dated.

"Further research is needed, once data become available, to assess changes in media consumption and device use in more recent years," added Jessica L. Adler, an assistant professor of history and health policy and management at the Florida International Institute and a co-author of the study.

Dangers Of Too Much Screen Time

Wendy Sue Swanson, a general pediatrician who is not involved in the study, told CNN that the rise of screen time among young children is not surprising given the demands of modern parenting. Television does a great job of capturing the attention of young children, making it easier for parents to work or do house chores.

However, a previous study found that exposure to screen for long periods of time might cause delays in child development. An investigation by the American Heart Association found a link between prolonged screen time and heart disease among children.

Another previous study suggests that limiting screen time to two hours a day, paired with ample sleep and physical activity, can improve a child's cognition.

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