As we become more and more entwined in the digital world, it starts to become a part of our every day life. And as parents, you've likely noticed it becoming a part of your kids' daily lives, too. From TV to laptop use, tablets to phones, our kids are spending an astronomical amount of time staring at screens. It certainly doesn't take an expert to realize that too much screen time could have a negative effect on a child; from physical changes (like vision problems) to the impact on their social and neurological development, parents should understand what too much screen time may be doing to their kids. A new study out of National University of Singapore has found yet another detrimental effect of too much screen time, this time on children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Researchers suggest that early exposure to screens, as well as multiple screen devices in the bedroom, may lead to sleep disruption and emotional and behavioral difficulties.
The study was conducted by KK Women's and Children's Hospital, along with National University of Singapore. Researchers studied the effects of screen time on young children with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism, language delays, or learning disorders. Researchers looked at 367 preschoolers between the ages of 2 and 5 in Singapore who had a neurodevelopmental disorder. The caregivers reported information about the children, such as screen time and sleep habits.
They found that the age of screen exposure played a key role in developing sleep or behavioral issues. 52% of the kids were exposed to screens at 18 months of age or younger, and nearly 58% of the children had access to at least one device in their bedroom (tablet, TV, etc). Additionally, 93.9% of the kids exceeded the one hour daily limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A majority of the kids, nearly 73%, experienced elevated sleep problems and disturbances, as reported by their caregivers. Over half of the children (59.9%) also experienced more emotional and/or behavioral difficulties.
When it came to screen time use, researchers found that use increased in households where the parents also used screens more, and were less likely to implement and enforce rules around screen time. There are a lot of things to consider when allowing your children access to screens like tablets, phones, and even TV time. Every family should do what's right for them, but in general, adhere to the recommendations set forth by the AAP, and encourage more interactive play instead of screen time. Also, based on the findings of this study, delaying exposure to screen time until 18 months of age may be a good decision.
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