Young children these days are exposed to more screen time than any generation previously. Not only are they exposed to traditional media technology such as the television, but access to newer technologies such as hand-held tablet devices means that screen time has become an integral part of growing up in today’s society.
In April of this year, a World Health Organization report recommended that children between the ages of 3-4 years old should have no more than 1 hour of sedentary screen time per day. Now, emerging evidence is suggesting that excessive screen time can have detrimental neurological effects on young children. A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics utilized an MRI technique called diffusion tensor imaging alongside a survey to assess a child’s screen time.
The study authors found that in healthy children between the ages of 3-5, children who had greater than one hour of screen time per day had decreased integrity of their white matter in tracts that support language, literacy and executive functioning. These trends persisted even after controlling for child age and household income. This suggests that early screen use may impair early brain function and development, and supports the recommendations made by the World Health Organization earlier this year.