SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Many of us have been there, the kids are acting up at the restaurant and a quick game or show on your phone calms them down but a new study found that too much screen time may be wreaking havoc on a child's brain during key years of development.
The study scanned the brains of close to 50 children ages three to five. Data shows that kids who used screens for more than an hour a day without parental involvement had lower levels of development in areas of the brain in charge of language, literacy and cognitive skills.
Tiffany Friggione limits her kiddos to 30 minutes of screen time a day.
This is the age where they need to develop and make all the connections so less screen time is better,” said Friggione.
The Santa Barbara mom wasn’t surprised to hear that a recent pediatric study showed a concerning link between screen time and lower brain development in preschoolers.
“I think they kind of zone out and it’s not forcing brain work while they’re watching, so that makes sense,” said Friggione.
Dr Saida Hamdani says a study like this is long overdue. She talks to parents about the dangers of screen time when their babies are just four days old.
“It’s so critical to make the parents aware of how powerful screen time is in affecting the way the brain develops it literally rewires the brain,” said Saida Hamdani, MD, Sansum Clinic Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The Sansum Clinic Pediatrician says she can often tell just by observing in the waiting room the kids that are stimulated by reading and playing.
“The child is focused, the child is calm, the child has really good critical learning skills, critical thinking skills,” said Dr. Hamdani.
Dr. Hamdani says children exposed to a lot of screen time may be bright but they can’t harness the brain’s horsepower and they’re dependent on a parent entertaining them with a phone or tablet.
“A child who gets a lot of screen time then has lower attention span, lower processing time, lower cognitive skills, lower executive functioning, more behavioral issues, difficulty with sleep, difficulty with socializing,” said Dr. Hamdani.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says no to screen time until the little ones are two but FaceTiming or video chatting is ok.
“Between two and five selective screen time, the maximum being an hour a day where the parent is co-viewing and helping the child make sense of what they’re viewing,” said Dr.Hamdani.
After six, Dr. Hamdani outlines limited screen time with clear parameters but overall, her recommendations are even stricter than that.
“So that brain, even though it goes through tremendously rapid development in the first two years and quite intense development up until seven years old, it will actually continue into the '20s,” said Dr. Hamdani.
Dr. Hamdani also says no screens at mealtime, bedtime or in the car, when you could be interacting with your kids.