Increase Toddler Screen Time Linked to Worse Social and Motor Skills



Toddlers who spend too much time in front of televisions, tablets, and smartphones may not become as skilled at problem-solving, communication and other skills needed for school as their peers who have less screen time, a new study suggests.

Children in the study had an average of 17 hours of screen time a week when they were two years old, and 25 hours a week by the time they were three. This far exceeds one-hour daily limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to allow children enough time for creative play and interactions with caregivers and peers.

“Screen time is most often a sedentary or passive behavior, with very few learning opportunities,” said lead study author Sheri Madigan of the University of Calgary and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute in Canada.

Part of the problem is that toddlers’ brains aren’t developed enough to apply things they learn from two-dimensional screens to what they experience in three-dimensional life, Madigan said by email.

“If they see someone building blocks on the screen, this doesn’t help them build blocks in real life,” Madigan said.

Another reason screen time can slow development is that the hours passed in front of televisions and tablets mean kids may miss out on chances to scribble with crayons or play games that help them learn how to kick a ball or take turns.

“These are critical skills in early childhood, because mastery of skill is needed before further development can occur,” Madigan said. “You need to walk before you can run, and you need to know how to hold a crayon before you can write your name.”

Compared to toddlers with less screen time, two-year-olds with more screen time tended to score lower, at age three, on developmental screening tests that measured communication, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, and social skills.

The same pattern was seen for three-year-olds. The more screen time they had, the poorer they scored on developmental tests when they reached age five [. . .]

Read more: Too Much Toddler Screen Time Hurts Toddlers’ Social Motor Skills

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