By age 2, toddlers exposed to up to four hours of screen time per day were up to three times more likely to suffer developmental delays in communication and problem-solving skills.
A recent study has revealed a concerning connection between screen time and developmental delays in young children.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, analysed the effect of one to four hours of screen time per day on the development of 7,097 children in Japan.
Conducted as part of the Tohoku Medical Megabank Project Birth and Three-Generation Cohort Study, children and their mothers were recruited from 50 obstetric clinics and hospitals in the Miyagi and Iwate prefectures between July 2013 and March 2017.
According to the findings, children at age 1 who engaged in up to four hours of screen time per day were found to have a higher risk of developmental delays by age 2 in areas such as communication, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal and social skills.
By age 2, those exposed to up to four hours of screen time per day were up to three times more likely to suffer developmental delays in communication and problem-solving skills.
Those who engaged in four or more hours of screen time daily were 4.78 times more likely to exhibit underdeveloped communication skills, 1.74 times more likely to show subpar fine motor skills, and twice as likely to have underdeveloped personal and social skills by age 2.
By age 4, risk remained only in the communication and problem-solving categories.
The study’s authors suggested that the adverse effects on communication skills might result from technology taking time away from interpersonal relationships.
Other factors such as genetics, neglect or abuse, socioeconomic factors, and maternal characteristics like age, income, education level, and postpartum depression could also influence a child’s development, noted researcher Nagata.
Critics of the study point out some limitations. Parents may underreport their children’s screen time and overreport developmental progress due to social desirability bias.
Additionally, the study lacks details on what children’s screen time involved, and experts argue that not all forms of screen time are equal in their potential harm or benefit.
Despite these caveats, the study serves as a crucial warning to parents about the potential risks associated with excessive screen time.
The findings emphasise the importance of real-life interaction and play in children’s early developmental stages, shedding new light on an issue relevant to a technology-driven world.