Too much time in front of the screens harms the development of children, study

A study from the University of Calgary shows that toddlers who spend too much time in front of a screen are developing and doing less well in primary school.

According to the study published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, excessive time spent in front of the screens explains why one in four children in Canada begins their school years with a deficit.

Our study shows that preschoolers who spend too much time in front of a screen […] are among those with learning delays and learning deficits when they enter school at the age of 5. years

 Sheri Madigan, Researcher and Professor University of Calgary

The authors of the study say that you should not spend too much time watching television, but also before any other device connected to the Internet, video games or other digital media such as tablets or cell phones.

2500 households surveyed

According to University of Calgary researcher and professor Sheri Madigan, the study examined the combination of screen time and early childhood development in 2,500 Alberta homes between 2011 and 2016. Families were asked to indicate the number hours spent in front of screens by children.

Researchers found that children spent an average of 2.4 hours a day in front of a screen at age 2, 3.6 hours a day at age 3, and 1.6 hours a day at school. 5 years old.

These durations exceed the recommendations of the Canadian Pediatric Society, which suggests limiting the screen time to one hour per day for children aged 2 to 5, and advises focusing on high quality programs that focus on learning and learning. development.

According to the study, children spending too much time in front of a screen fail to meet the targets of language development and communication, problem solving and motor skills.

“What distinguishes our study from those previously done on the subject is that we have examined the long-term impact of screen time, how screen time at age 2 has an effect on 5-year development, “says Sheri Madigan, who is also the Canada Research Chair in the Determinants of Child Development.

Our results show that one of the possible reasons for disparities in learning and behavior at school entry is that some children are too often in front of their screen during their infancy.

 Sheri Madigan, researcher and co-author of the study

She adds that children do not get enough physical activity because of all the hours they spend in front of shelves or television, and they do not develop the necessary motor skills to run, bike or play ball. . The primordial interactions with parents are also reduced, according to the study.

“When they are in front of screens, these interactions between parents and children do not occur, which can delay or prevent the development of children,” said Sheri Madigan.

An easy solution

Study co-author Suzanne Tough, who is a professor in the pediatric and community health sciences departments at the University of Calgary, says it’s easy for parents to seat children in front of the television.

“Most families live in homes with Internet-connected devices and many screens,” she explains.

Our generation is more and more busy and busy. Easy access to screens is a solution perceived to be harmless to keep children occupied.

 Suzanne Tough, Professor and co-author of the study

Sheri Madigan and Suzanne Tough want parents to be aware of the impact of time spent in front of screens and to have their children stay in front of screens for as long as possible.

They also propose to create zones without screens, in the kitchen for example, to be able to make meals with family.

As for parents who know that their young children are spending or have spent too much time in front of a screen, Sheri Madigan stresses that it is still time for them to adapt.

“The brains of children develop during childhood, but also afterwards. So there is still time to make changes, “she concludes.

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