Updated: Apr 10
There is a growing body of research on the negative impact of screen time on young children's brain development and cognitive function. One study published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2019 found that children who spent more than two hours a day on screens scored lower on language and thinking tests than children who spent less time on screens. The study followed 2,441 children aged 3 to 5 years old and measured their screen time and cognitive development over the course of four years.
Another study published in the journal Nature in 2018 found that children who spend more than two hours a day on screens have lower levels of white matter in their brains, which is associated with decreased cognitive function. The study followed 4,500 children aged 9 to 10 years old and used MRI scans to measure the amount of white matter in their brains.
These studies suggest that excessive screen time may have a negative impact on young children's cognitive development and brain function. It's important to note, however, that the research in this area is still evolving, and more studies are needed to fully understand the effects of screen time on young children's brains and thinking.
There is still much research to be done on the long-term effects of screen time on the brain, but current studies suggest that excessive screen time can have a negative impact on the brain in several ways.
Here at TDW Hypnotherapy Harrogate we don't believe most parents really want to damage their children or set them up for a difficult future so here are some things every parent should know:
1. Disrupts sleep: Exposure to the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the body's production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. This can lead to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which can affect the brain's ability to function properly.
TDW Hypnotherapy Harrogate advises:
DO NOT let your children have any screens in their bedrooms. DO NOT let them watch videos etc before bed, they should not be encouraged to use them to fall asleep. This will set up unhealthy habits and sleep problems for the future. I know many parents do this because it keeps the children occupied and gives time to do chores etc but it's not worth taking the chance with damage to their development
2. Alters brain activity: Studies have shown that excessive screen time can alter the activity of certain areas of the brain, particularly those involved in attention and decision-making. This can lead to difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
DO NOT give babies and youngsters your mobile or tablet to play with. Humans are not well adapted to the passive delivery of information. No matter how entertaining the cartoons etc, give them something physical to play with instead, this will help overall development
3. Decreases gray matter: Gray matter is the part of the brain responsible for processing information and making decisions. Studies have suggested that too much screen time may lead to a decrease in gray matter, which can affect cognitive abilities.
See previous point. Currently studies are fairly new so we don't know how bad this can get so the best you can do for your children is to encourage normal development without artificial input from screens and devices
4. Increases risk of addiction: Screen time can be addictive, particularly when it comes to social media and video games. Addiction can affect the brain's reward system, leading to changes in behavior and decision-making.
This is one of the most insidious risks to the development of youngsters, boys in particular. The addiction aspect is real. Psychotherapists are struggling to keep up with the demand for help. Mostly concerned parents realising that their children and teenagers really have a problem coping with real life demands when they spend so much time playing games.
5. Affects social skills: Excessive screen time can affect social skills, particularly in children. Children who spend too much time on screens may struggle with face-to-face communication and may have difficulty forming and maintaining relationships.
Related to the point above, normal socialisation is inhibited to the point youngsters don't develop the skills needed to navigate life outside the gaming world. This has huge implications for future earnings. partners and children
6. Impaired physical development: Spending excessive time on computers or mobile phones can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which can contribute to obesity and other physical health issues.
7. Eye and vision problems: Staring at a screen for extended periods can lead to eye strain, dry eyes, and other strain and vision problems.
8. Cyberbullying: Children who use computers and mobile phones are at risk of cyberbullying, which can cause emotional distress and negatively impact their mental health.
9. Exposure to inappropriate content: Children who spend time on the internet may inadvertently come across inappropriate content such as violence, sexual content, or hate speech.
10. Reduced creativity and imagination: Constant exposure to screens can inhibit a child's creativity and imagination, as they rely on pre-packaged media rather than creating their own stories and ideas.
11. Decreased attention span: Excessive screen time can negatively impact children's attention span, making it harder for them to focus on tasks and learn new information.
12. Poor academic performance: Spending too much time on screens can impact children's academic performance, as they may struggle with time management, organization, and concentration.
It's worth noting that not all screen time is created equal, and the impact on the brain may depend on what activities are being performed on the screen. For example, educational activities or reading on a screen may have different effects than social media or video games. Additionally, the impact of screen time may depend on individual factors, such as age, gender, and pre-existing conditions.
However, do you want any of your precious children to be on the wrong side of this in the future? The potential impacts are huge and may not be readily identifiable when young. Keep your children away from screens as much as possible.
Any concerns that they may be missing out or lagging in computer knowledge are unfounded. Humans have existed without them for eons. They will acquire the knowledge in due course at school.
Hutton, J. S., Dudley, J., Horowitz-Kraus, T., DeWitt, T., & Holland, S. K. (2019). Associations between screen-based media use and brain white matter integrity in preschool-aged children. JAMA Pediatrics, 173(3), 244-250.
Walsh, J. J., Barnes, J. D., Cameron, J. D., Goldfield, G. S., Chaput, J. P., Gunn