Allowing toddlers to watch tablets and TV can hurt their academic performance and emotional well-being, according to a new study.
Researchers found that increased screen time during infancy was associated with poorer executive functioning by age 9. The study was published on Monday JAMA Pediatrics Journal.
Executive skills are mental processes that “allow us to plan, focus, remember instructions, and successfully juggle multiple tasks.” Harvard University Center on the Developing Child.
Those executive function skills are important for higher-level cognition, such as emotional regulation, learning, academic achievement and mental health, the study found. Dr. Erica Chipani, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, says it affects our success socially, academically, professionally and how we take care of ourselves.
Chiappini, who was not involved in the study, said in an email that “although these cognitive processes naturally develop from childhood to adulthood, they are influenced by the experiences we have and the time we have in our development.”
Dr. Joyce Harrison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said the results support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations that encourage all screen time before 18 months, except for video chats. Harrison was not involved in the study.
The study looked at data from Singapore’s Growing Up to Healthy Outcomes, or GUSTO, survey of women from all socioeconomic backgrounds in the first trimester of pregnancy. The sample was made up of 437 children who underwent electroencephalography (EEG) scans, which are used to look at the neural pathways of cognitive function. In brain, at 1, 18 months and 9 years of age.
The parents reported each child’s screen time, and researchers found a link between screen time in infancy and attention and screen time at age 9.
However, more research is needed to determine whether screen time causes impairments in executive function, or whether there are other factors in a child’s environment that may lead to increased screen time and poorer executive functioning.
In an education-filled time like childhood, one of the biggest problems with screen use is that young children don’t learn much from them, according to the AAP.
“There is no substitute for adult interaction, modeling and teaching,” Harrison said.
According to Chiappini, children have difficulty interpreting information presented in two dimensions, such as on screens, and have trouble distinguishing illusion from reality.
“Babies and children are also social learners and benefit greatly from back-and-forth interactions with others (adults and children) that are difficult to achieve with screens,” Chipani said in an email.
When it comes to emotional regulation, infants and toddlers can learn from their caregivers when they model self-control or help them label emotions and appropriate expressions, she added.
For example, you can give a toddler options for what to do when he’s angry, such as taking a deep breath instead of inappropriate behaviors like taking a break or hitting, Harrison said.
Talking about feelings can be very abstract for preschool age children, and in those cases Color zones to talk about feelings Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavior pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics at Michigan Medicine’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital, says it can be helpful. Radesky was not involved in the study.
Stability and content can be green; Worry or irritation can be yellow; And upset or angry can be red, using graphics or facial images to help children match what they’re feeling to their color zone. To reinforce this, adults can talk about their own feelings through colors in front of their children, Radesky said In a previous article on CNN.
Parents and children can go through colors together and come up with calming tools for different zones, he said.
To strengthen those executive function skills, Harrison says, it’s important to provide structured engagement rather than problem-solving at a child’s developmental level.
And yet sometimes parents just need to finish the laundry or attend a work meeting, and screens can feel like an effective distraction.
For younger kids, it’s probably best to avoid screen time, Harrison emphasizes.
Instead, try to involve the child in household chores, she said.
“When you try to wash your children, give them a clothesline that folds up next to you, or let them wash your child safely,” Harrison said in an email.
For older preschoolers, save your screen time to use it strategically, she said.
“For example, their one hour of screen time can last a while when you have an important video meeting to attend,” Harrison said.
And there’s some content to help teach emotional control when your tank is empty. Finding media that aims to talk directly to children about emotions – like Daniel Tiger or Elmo Belly Breathing – It can be like meditation instead of distraction, Radesky CNN previously said.
And by engaging your child while watching, you can make screen time work better, says Chipani. Like, “What does that character feel like?” Ask the same questions. and “What can they do to help their friend?” she added.
Raising children is a complex and sometimes overwhelming job, and no caregiver can always give a child everything they need, Radesky said.