A recent World Health Organization study advises zero sedentary screen time for babies aged 0 to 2 years. Passive viewing has become a top activity of children these days. In fact, screen time exposure has doubled in the past two decades.
Accessibility of gadgets and parents' tendency to babysit children with screens have contributed to the increasing screen time of children.
Many research have pointed out the disadvantages of digital screens for children. Whether it's the TV, tablet, or smartphone, these screens are not suitable for children, especially for the very young ones.
What could actually happen to children who are overexposed to screens? Here are some research-based results:
Excessive screen time can impact a child's ability to develop optimally. A study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that spending too much time in front of screens can impact negatively on a child's emotional, psychological, and cognitive development.
Other research also link heavy screen time to premature changes in the brain structure of children. In particular, children who have more than seven hours daily screen time may experience premature thinning of the part of their brain that processes sensory information.
Likewise, children who are exposed to more screen time at the age of 2 also got the worst results in their development tests when they reach the age of 3.
Children who have more than two hours of screen time are said to be more prone to develop inattention and behavioral problems.
On the other hand, children who have more physical activities and quality sleep are able to perform better in tests that measure language abilities, memory, executive function, attention span, and processing speed.
Obesity And Screen Time
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2015 to 2016, nearly one in every five children in the United States is obese. Child obesity can lead to more health problems later in life. Experts also found a link between screen time and obesity.
"Screen time is associated with being overweight and obese which is associated with high cholesterol and high blood pressure," said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a pediatric cardiologist and spokesman for the American Heart Association.
Limiting screen time and being physically active are also recommended to address obesity among children.
Physical Activities And Quality Sleep Are Still Best For Children
The early formative years are crucial in a child's growth and development. WHO said improving activities and ensuring quality sleep of children will help them get better physical and mental health and overall wellbeing. The health agency advised that babies aged four to 11 months must sleep from 12 to 16 hours daily. Other non-screen based activities are also beneficial for infants and children.
The recommended recreational screen time varies depending on the age of a child. Several studies suggest that the most optimal amount of screen time for children should be between zero and 30 minutes daily, and must not exceed a total of two hours.