Psychologists from the University of Calgary have published a study in the JAMA journal of Paediatrics, which found that 2-5 years olds who engaged in more screen time received worse scores in developmental screening tests.

The Study

The toddlers in the study were from 2,500 Alberta homes between 2011 and 2016.  Their families or caregivers were asked to report on how much time the toddlers spent in front of screens. The toddlers were reported to be averaging 2-3 hours per day screen time, and their families/caregivers filled out standard questionnaires about the basic motor and communication skills of the toddlers.  Results were reported for the children at 24, 36 and 60 months old.

Correlation Found

The study revealed a perhaps unsurprising correlation between more screen time and lower results.  For example, greater screen time at 24 months was found to be associated with poorer performance on developmental screening tests at 36 months, and greater screen time at 36 months was found to be associated with lower scores on developmental screening tests at 60 months.

In short, the study found that those toddlers who had excessive screen time were failing to meet developmental milestones in language and communication, problem-solving, and fine and gross motor skills.

Missing Important Interactions

Lead author of the report of the study, Sheri Madigan, commented on the University of Calgary website that if children are consumed with screen time, they aren’t getting enough physical activity, and that this means they aren’t developing the motor skills they need to run, ride a bike, or throw a ball. Madigan said that positive stimulation that aids physical and cognitive development comes from interactions with caregivers and that when children are “in front of their screens, these important parent-child interactions aren’t happening, and this can delay or derail children’s development.”

What Use Are The Results?

The authors of the report, Madigan and Dr Suzanne Tough, have suggested that the findings from this study could, for example, be of use to health-care professionals who are seeking to guide parents on the appropriate screen time limits for their children.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As any parent of young children will know, and indeed as the authors of the report have acknowledged, technology is deeply entrenched in modern-day lives, and spending time in front of a screen is something that children do today as part of learning, playing an interacting with their peers.  The point here is that too much screen time for very young children (2 to 5) can set their personal development back in many important areas.

The authors of the report have said that parents needn’t become too concerned, because children’s brains develop over the course of childhood and beyond, so there’s time to make changes.  The authors also suggest that one way that parents can minimise damage to the development of their children from too much screen time by creating and implementing a family media plan. This can involve controlling the number of hours spent in front of screens, establishing device-free zones e.g. at the dinner table, and introducing baskets where everybody puts their devices at certain times of the day, in order to make time for the family connect and interact.