Screen time is causing toddlers to lose coordination skills like those needed to tie their shoelaces, new research suggests.
The study of 2,400 children, published in the JAMA Paediatrics, found that more screen time was linked to lower scores in “milestone” tests of coordination, as well as communication, problem-solving and social skills.
The findings also revealed that the amount of screen time two and three-year-olds clocked up had a negative effect on their performance at three and five.
Researchers said that screen-gazing may be causing children to skip the chance to practice their physical and intellectual skills.
By the time they start school, a quarter of children show some degree of deficient or delayed development in language, communication, motor skills and “socio-emotional health”, scientists behind the study revealed.
Dr Dillon Browne, a child psychologist who worked on the study, said: “The more screen time these children have the less likely they are developing their fine motor skills through playing with toys, dressing dolls, doing art and things like that.”
But it is not clear whether screen time is directly to blame. There’s a possibility that time spent on screens could go hand-in-hand with other factors linked to delayed development, such as upbringing and how a child spends their remaining time.
In Canada and the US, experts say children should not use screens before they are at least 18 months old. But the UK has no such guidelines.
The latest study forms part of what has become quite conflicting views on the impact of screen time in children.
Instead, new guidance from leading paediatricians suggests that parents should run through a checklist to monitor the impact screen time is having on their children.
But back in September new research has proven that more than two hours of recreational screen time a day could seriously affect a child’s learning.
The study published by Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, examined 4,500 US children aged between eight and 11 to determine how screen time affects their cognitive development.
The findings indicated that children who have less than two hours of screen time a day, an average of nine to 11 hours of sleep and who do at least one hour of physical activity per day – did 5% better than the average child in the tests.
The most recent research prompted British experts to declare that more research was needed about the impact on screen time on children’s development.
But they did agree parents should be encouraged to adopt some healthy screen time boundaries.
“This is the first study to show that increased use of screen time in very young children can be associated with slower development,” Dr Bernadka Dubicka, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists told Telegraph.
“These results add important weight to existing concerns that too much screen time can prevent young children from having the best start in life, by potentially reducing important opportunities for social interactions, physical activity and other experiences necessary for development.
“Parents should actively encourage their children to engage in a range of activities which promote their child’s development and give them as much face-to-face time as possible. Parents should also be aware of how much time they are spending on their screens in front of their children.”
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