child in front of screen

Is screentime REALLY that bad?

Of course, it is.


Screens are omnipresent, keep the kids busy for hours and give us a break. Bt they have lulled us into a state of complacency. We have accepted them into all facets of our lives (even here in a post about their potential harms).

Researchers have found a range of reasons we should avoid or minimize them in childhood. It makes kids more sedentary. And that's bad for their odds of developing obesity or chronic diseases such as diabetes. According to Public Health England, "We are the first generation to need to make a conscious decision to build physical activity into our daily lives. Technology dominates … Societal changes have designed physical activity out of our lives."

The World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision has recently added 'gaming disorder' to its list of diseases.

We've all seen the toddlers grabbing for their parent's iphone at a restaurant or waiting for a sibling to finish gymnastics class. These days, screen addiction starts young. And that's not a good thing.

Children who spent more than two hours a day looking at a screen get lower scores on thinking and language tests, according to early results of a landmark study on brain development of more than 11,000 children that the National Institutes of Health is supporting.

Perhaps even more disturbing, the NIH study is noting that the brains of children who spend a lot of time on screens are different. For some kids, there is premature thinning of their cerebral cortex. Previous studies have also found changes in brain structure and function in kids who are exposed to excessive screen-time. In fact, much of the damage occurs in the brain's frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. This is even more disconcerting as frontal lobe development largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills.

But the research is truly frightening when we turn to the youngest screen addicts— babies. In a cohort study of early childhood development in over 2000 mothers and children, higher levels of screen time in children aged 24 and 36 months were associated with poor performance on a screening measure assessing children's achievement of development milestones at 36 and 60 months, respectively.

Regulators are starting to notice and take action. The US Department of Health has issued 'recommended limits for screen time' as one of its national 'health improvement priorities' and a key 'disease prevention objective': 'children aged 0 to 2 years …no television, videos or play video games' children aged 2-17 years 'outside of school (for nonschool work) for no more than 2 hours a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised a further 50 percent reduction in the Academy's previous recommended screen limits to 1 hour per day for 2 – 5 year olds, 'a time of critical brain development'.

Yes, there are many benefits of using technology in education, communication, convenience, etc. But when you consider the question of if screen are truly harmful to children, perhaps keep it simple. Think about what your children are missing out on when they are spending their time on screens.