Alter Health Services

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Are Smart Devices Making Kids Dumb?

Posted 03.31.2022 in Mystery Minutes

Pre-school age children with higher screen usage have impaired brain development compared to kids with lower screen usage. Is your child at risk?

Are Smart Devices Making Kids Dumb?

I see a lot of children in my practice. Often, even if only one child has an appointment, the siblings are along for the adventure (we do have a pretty cool pediatric room). Commonly, young brothers and sisters are pacified while they wait by watching something on a phone or tablet. This is certainly understandable and honestly, quite effective. But I wondered, is this relatively new video stimulus OK for a developing mind, especially with prolonged exposure?

A 2019 study published by JAMA Pediatrics found that pre-school age children with higher screen usage had impaired brain development compared to kids with lower screen usage. Specifically, there is an insulating covering around the nerves in the brain called “myelin”. It was found that the amount of this protective covering was reduced significantly in children with increases in screen time. Myelination of the neurons is directly related to reaching developmental milestones.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • Age 0-2: No screen time … period.
  • Age 2-5: LESS than 1 hour per day and this should be supervised only.

Unfortunately, in 2017, it was found that the average amount of screen time for children per day was:

  • Age 0-2: 42 minutes
  • Age 2-4: 2 hours and 40 minutes!

It is likely that the average times listed in the 2017 survey have since increased.

Considering the growing evidence indicating the harm that too much screen time can cause children, this finding is very troubling. Troubling immediately for sure and horrifying as these children become the next generation of leaders.

As a parent I know the temptation and convenience these devices bring with them. Life is busy. Both parents often working or only one parent is in the picture … and working, making dinner and juggling so many other responsibilities.

I get that. Sincerely, I do.

Ignoring this information will not prevent the brain damage. Now that the Screen Jeanie is out of the bottle, it may seem as if there is no simple solution.

Thousands of generations of parents, also very busy in their own way, raised children without these electronic babysitters. Please consider time tested and wonderful “old school” baby-sitters like books, games and puzzles. Introduce your child to this technology only after the age of two and then only when you can watch or play with them.

Be creative with your parenting. Your child will love the time spent with you, develop a healthier brain and a stronger family bond.

Please try. Our kids and grandkids deserve it.

Healthier lives. Revealed Together.

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