High levels of screen time in young children have been associated with sleep disturbances, obesity, behavioral problems and developmental delays. Previous research has found associations with excessive TV watching in young children and delays in social emotional, language and cognitive delays.
Research has shown that screen time inhibits young children's ability to read faces and learn social skills, two key factors needed to develop empathy. Face-to-face interactions are the only way young children learn to understand non-verbal cues and interpret them.
“Excessive screen time can have other effects on kids,” cautions Dr. Schwartz. “Studies have shown it can decrease cognitive function and attention spans, and have an impact on energy levels. Additionally, studies have shown that screen time can affect children's academics.”
Excessive screen time may inhibit a child's ability to observe and experience the typical everyday activities they need to engage with in order to learn about the world, leading to a kind of “tunnel vision,” which can be detrimental to overall development.
The more time spent watching on a screen, the more likely children are to have trouble falling asleep or have an irregular sleep schedule. Sleep loss can lead to fatigue and increased snacking.
Too much screen time can lead to obesity, sleep problems, chronic neck and back problems, depression, anxiety and lower test scores in children. Children should limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day. Adults should also try to limit screen time outside of work hours.
AAP calls for no screen time at all for children until 18 to 24 months, except for video chatting, and says kids ages 2 to 5 should get an hour or less of screen time per day.
Between 18 and 24 months screen time should be limited to watching educational programming with a caregiver. For children 2-5, limit non-educational screen time to about 1 hour per weekday and 3 hours on the weekend days. For ages 6 and older, encourage healthy habits and limit activities that include screens.
Screen time rules
The WHO does not provide specific limits for older children, but some research has suggested that excessive screen time for teenagers could be linked to mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Most children had been introduced to screens as early as when they were six months of age, and a majority of the children had been exposed to television screens before they turned one. Excessive screen time (ST) results in a delay in development of expressive and receptive language.
This study by Chonchaiya and Pruksananonda found that children who began watching tv before 12 months and who watched more than 2 hours of TV per day were six times more likely to have language delays!
Majority of the studies analysed indicate that an increase in the amount of screen time and the early age of onset of viewing has negative effects on language development, especially for the children under the age of two with older age of onset of viewing showing some benefits.
Conclusions and Relevance Among boys, longer screen time at 1 year of age was significantly associated with autism spectrum disorder at 3 years of age. With the rapid increase in device usage, it is necessary to review the health effects of screen time on infants and to control excessive screen time.
How Much Is Too Much? Preschoolers ages 2 to 5 can watch up to 1 hour a day of high-quality educational programming. The exception to this rule is video chatting with grandparents or other family friends, which is considered quality time interacting with others.
By ages 2 and 3, it's OK for kids to watch up to 1 hour a day of high-quality educational programming.
"Screen time" is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time.
Kids and teens age 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. The new warning from the AHA recommends parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours per day. For younger children, age 2 to 5, the recommended limit is one hour per day.
8-10 years old: Six hours. 11-14 years old: Nine hours. 15-18 years old: Seven and 1/2 hours.
They also found that for every 30-minute increase in daily handheld screen time, there was a 49% increased risk of expressive language delay! Another study surveyed over 1,000 parents of children under the age of two. They found that toddlers who watched more videos said fewer words.
If you introduce digital media to children ages 18 to 24 months, make sure it's high quality and avoid solo media use. For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.
For kids aged 2 to 5, screen time should be limited to 1 hour per day, and parents should watch the programs with their child. Also, parents should have times when screens are turned off, and bedrooms should be media-free.
Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than an hour a day, and children aged 5-18 years should have no more than two hours a day.
The dangers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no regular TV watching for children under the age of 2, and limiting TV time to around 1 to 2 hours a day for children over 2.
One of the most concerning impacts of screen time is the effect on our children's mental and emotional health. Regular, frequent screen time can overstimulate and hyper-arouse the developing child's brain, effectively short circuiting the frontal lobe.