Too much screen time for youngsters hinders social and developmental growth, studies show


As difficult as it may be, parents need to severely limit the amount of time their young children spend on electronic devices.

Research indicates that the effect of electronic devices on children is extensive as it hinders their ability to learn, socialize, and grow into young adults. Scientific studies show a significant difference in how the brains of children who spend two hours or less function as compared to those who spend more on screens. Those children spending more time on electronic devices tend to have a harder time making friends and performing well in school than the children who do not spend as much time on screens. 

A recent study showing brain scans found that children aged three to five had lower levels of white brain matter development due to more than the recommended one-hour screen time. This is an area that is vital for the development of language, literacy, and cognitive skills.

According to a article citing the American Academy of Pediatrics, “screen time should be restricted to less than 1 hour per day for a child of 2 – 5 years of age. Likewise, it is important to avoid screen time for a child who is younger than 18 months.” Even though this is recommended, 98% of children ages zero- eight years old spend more than two hours per day on screens.

Also according to the article, a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed that “children spending approximately 2 hours on screens have lower thinking/reasoning power and language processing ability.” The study also found that the cortex is thinner in children who spend greater than seven hours a day on screens. 

Not only does using electronic devices alter the development of the brain, impacting the way kids learn, but it impacts how they interact with other humans and make friends. Children go through major changes when they are in elementary school when it comes to learning how to interact with other people. They learn what is considered socially acceptable, how to share, and be kind to each other. If they are so busy using their technology, they are not learning these vital skills they will need for the rest of their lives. 

Not only does technology decrease social skills, but it increases aggression as kids play video games that are inappropriate and involve drugs, guns, and other violent acts they should not be exposed to at such a young age. When kids play violent video games, their ability to function socially is impaired. According to a Florida Tech report, “Exposure to violence was found to make children and teens more likely to argue with peers or teachers, and less empathetic and impacted by actual violence.”

Before such screen technology became so prevalent, kids were required to use their imaginations to entertain themselves. They had to make up games, rules, and interact with other kids. However, now that most kids have electronic devices, they are not getting enrichment from their friends, siblings, or parents. Also, electronic devices do not require people to be active while using them, which does not allow for kids to burn off energy and get physical activity during the day.

Not only are the physical and cognitive development of children being halted by technology, but it is also keeping them awake longer. Kids stay up later to stay on their phones, decreasing length and quality of sleep. Kids stay on their devices close to bedtime, which prevents them from falling asleep as quickly after getting into their bed. Also stated by Florida Tech, “ In extreme cases, children or teenagers may even forgo other vital activities, likely eating or sleeping, when engaged with a video game or other media.”

Parents who have children of all ages should try to limit the use of technology at certain times so that kids understand that they still need real-life interaction. Parents can set rules so that kids cannot have their phones in reach during dinner or an hour before bedtime. 

Parents should monitor young children while using technology to make sure they are not watching inappropriate material and to explain what they are watching so they understand it properly. As most kids spend many hours a day on their screens, their parents probably spend the same amount of time or more on screens. This leaves very little time for face-to-face interaction, which is crucial to the success of children.