Increased Screen Time for Toddlers Delays Preschool Milestones, Study Shows

The study found a direct link between screen time at ages 2 and 3, and development at 3 and 5.
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Associate Editor
January 29, 2019
toddler girl intently uses a mobile phone
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Toddlers who spend lots of time staring at TVs and smart screens are linked to delayed development later in childhood, a new study suggests.

The study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found a direct connection between screen time when kids are 2 and 3 years old, and developmental milestones when they are 3 and 5 years old.

Researchers used the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, which looks at milestones like growth in communication, motor skills, problem-solving and social skills. Mothers completed questionnaires related to their child’s performance on developmental tests at 2, 3 and 5 years old. The parents also shared about how much time their kids spent on screens during the week and on the weekend.

More screen time at 2 years old was associated with poorer performance on the developmental screening tests at 3 years old; and greater screen time at 3 years old was associated with lower scores on developmental screening tests at 5 years old.

Researchers found the average amount of screen time for 2-, 3- and 5-year-olds in the study was about 2.4, 3.6 and 1.6 hours per day, respectively.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents limit screen time use for kids ages 2 to 5 years old to a maximum of 1 hour a day, ideally with a parent present. As kids get older, parents should enforce daily limits on time spent watching TV and looking at screens.

The findings shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. An earlier study suggests too much screen time is hurting kids’ brains, exercise routines and sleep schedules. And another study says screen time leads to delayed speech development in toddlers.

Technology is a beautiful and dangerous thing. With the help of screen time guidelines, parents can work towards reaching a healthy limit for their kids. For some help along the way, try these easy and screen-free ways to stimulate baby’s mind.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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