Screen time linked to lower brain development in preschoolers

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'Given that screen-based media use is ubiquitous and increasing in children in home, childcare, and school settings, these findings suggest the need for further study to identify the implications for the developing brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain growth in early childhood'.

Meanwhile, children aged between two and five should "limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high quality programs".

It's in the white matter of the brain where language, other literacy skills, and the process of mental control and self-regulation develop, researchers say. Researchers looked at brain MRIs in 47 preschoolers and found that screen time over the AAP's recommendations was associated with differences in brain structure in areas related to language and literacy development.

The study was conducted from August 2017 to November 2018 on participants recruited at a US children's hospital, and took pains to note that screen time implications for brain development on young kids still remain unknown despite found associations.

The findings "highlight the need to understand effects of screen time on brain development in early childhood so that policymakers and parents can set healthy limits", Hutton said in a media release issued with the study published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Parents who let their children watch screens should use the time to interact with their child rather than making screen time passive, she advised.

The children completed standard cognitive tests and underwent a diffusion tensor MRI, which provides estimates of the white matter integrity in the brain.

Parents should also watch with them to understand the information - and apply it to the world around them, they added.

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"It used to be that the TV was in the living room and kids would watch it ... but now with portable devices, the screens literally follow kids everywhere", said Hutton, adding that technology has advanced so much faster than the research. "But it's important for parents to know that these results don't show that heavy media use causes 'brain damage, '" Radesky wrote.

"These are tracks that we know are involved with language and literacy", Hutton said, "And these were the ones relatively underdeveloped in these kids with more screen time".

"If your teenager is generally actively participating, getting homework done, having face-to-face interaction with family members and friends, and has extracurricular and physical activity ... parents can relax a little [about screen time] ... and reduce the guilt", Anderson advised.

A lack of development of those "cables" can slow the brain's processing speed; on the other hand, studies show that reading, juggling or learning and practicing a musical instrument improves the organization and structure of the brain's white matter.

Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bedtime.

The AAP advises designated shared times when screens are banned - such as during dinner or in the auto - as well as media-free locations such as bedrooms.

- From 18 to 24 months, introduce digital media by watching quality programming like PBS Kids or Sesame Workshop with children. "We know that kids who start behind tend to get more and more behind as they get older". Screen Q score of 19 is total no adherence to the prescribed limit of one hour and screen time going up to even 12 hours per day.

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