Excessive Screen Time May Have a Scary Effect on Kids’ Brain Tissue, Study Suggests

It appears to be associated with altered white brain matter.

A new study suggests that excessive time looking at digital screens is associated with alterations to small children’s white brain matter.

The research involved 47 children ages 3-5 years, the American Optometric Association reports. Researchers conducted cognitive testing and diffusion-tensor imaging on them, and their parents took ScreenQ surveys, which measure screen time based on American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations.

The children’s “increased use of screen-based media in the context of the AAP guidelines” was associated with “lower microstructural integrity of brain white matter tracts that support language, executive functions, and emergent literacy skills, controlling for child age and household income,” according to the researchers, who are affiliated primarily with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Screen use was also associated with lower scores on corresponding behavioral measures, controlling for age,” they wrote.

“Given that screen-based media use is ubiquitous and increasing in children in home, childcare, and school settings, these findings suggest the need for further study to identify the implications for the developing brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain growth in early childhood.”

This is a wakeup call that excessive screen time with young children is more serious than a child becoming myopic.  More studies are needed but the initial findings are worrisome.  Talk to your children at the dinner table, read stories from books, and playing outdoors are all important for life skills and for vision for life!

The research was published online in JAMA Pediatrics.