What is all this screen time doing to kids’ brains?
Early data from a landmark National Institutes of Health (NIH) study that began in 2018 indicates that children who spent more than two hours a day on screen-time activities scored lower on language and thinking tests, and some children with more than seven hours a day of screen time experienced thinning of the brain’s cortex, the area of the brain related to critical thinking and reasoning.
“We’re not sure what this data means yet, but what we can hypothesize is that screens could inhibit certain aspects of a child’s development by narrowing their focus of interest and limiting their other means of exploration and learning,” says Dr. Jennifer F. Cross, attending pediatrician and a developmental and behavioral pediatrics expert at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital. “If young children spend most of their time engaging with an iPad, smartphone, or the television, all of which are highly entertaining, it can be hard to get them engaged in non-electronic activities, such as playing with toys to foster imagination and creativity, exploring outdoors, and playing with other children to develop appropriate social skills. Interacting almost exclusively with screens would be like working out only your arm muscles and nothing else. You would have really strong arm muscles, but at the expense of overall fitness.”