Daily Screen Use Linked to Toddler Developmental Delays


According to a recent study from Japan, one-year-olds who spent an hour or more each day on screens were up to five times more likely to fail communicative milestones by the time they turned two.

This latest study aimed to determine whether specific developmental areas were impacted by screen time at a young age. Previous research on the topic has shown varying impacts on development and learning new skills, including benefits depending on the type of programming watched in some cases.

The amount of time spent using smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices, including television, video games, and mobile devices, was referred to as “screen time.”

This week, the study was released in the JAMA Pediatrics journal. Data for 7,097 children born in Japan whose mothers supplied regular updates to a databank for research purposes were evaluated by researchers. Between 2013 and 2017, the research program sought out expectant women to collect information on their offspring.

The amount of screen time reported by mothers for their one-year-old children was studied, and this data was related to the mothers’ later reports on whether their children had attained developmental milestones by the time they were two years old. The mothers were asked, “On a typical day, how many hours do you allow your children to watch TV, DVDs, video games, internet games (including mobile phones and tablets), etc.?” in order to determine how much screen time children had as 1-year-olds.

The moms were also given the Ages & Stages Questionnaire, which is a set of standardized developmental questions, when the children were 2 and 4 years old. In other communication tests, the kid was asked if they could imitate a two-word phrase, such as “mama eat,” or if they could point to the right object without being shown, such “where is the dog?”

In comparison to 1-year-olds who had less than an hour of daily screen time, the researchers discovered that children who had 1 hour or more of screen time per day or more were more likely to have developmental delays in communication skills as 2-year-olds.

The research revealed, specifically, that 2-year-olds were:

If children experienced 1 to less than 2 hours of screen usage per day as infants, they were 61% more likely to have communication developmental deficits.
If they spent 2 to less than 4 hours per day on screens, they were twice as likely to experience communication developmental deficits as 1-year-olds.
If a person spent four or more hours each day in front of a screen, their risk of developing a communication delay increases by five times.
The study also revealed that children who spent an hour or more a day in front of a screen as infants were more likely to fall behind in their development of social, personal, and fine motor abilities as toddlers. However, the kids did not have a higher likelihood of missing those milestones than 4-year-olds did.

The authors pointed out that in today’s society it is challenging to restrict screen usage. Except for video chatting, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opposes screen time for kids younger than 18 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) policy on Media and Young Minds states that there is “sufficient evidence to recommend time limits on digital media use for children 2 to 5 years to no more than 1 hour per day to allow children ample time to engage in other activities important to their health and development and to establish media viewing habits associated with lower risk of obesity later in life.” Children will benefit most from what they watch if parents encourage them to switch to educational and prosocial content and interact with their kids online.

Children are able to learn words via touchscreens at the age of 15 months, according to the AAP, but they struggle to apply that knowledge in everyday situations. According to the AAP, two-year-olds can learn words through live video chatting with an attentive adult.

The AAP recommends that parents watch commercial media with their toddlers and reinforce the lessons they acquire, starting around the age of 15 months.