As we more and more become people of screens and digital media, questions surrounding both the benefits and dangers of screen time also grow in number and variety. Concerns are even greater when children, who have less self-control than their older counterparts, are involved. Parents may now have even great reason to fret over their kids’ use of mobile devices and viewing habits after research shows how too much screen time could cause a delay in learning when the child enters preschool.
To be clear, “screen time” here isn’t just limited to the usual culprits like smartphones and tablets. That also includes computers, gaming devices, and even TVs. The study conducted by the University of Calgary between 2011 and 2016 observed children two, three, and five years of age who spent 2.4, 3.6, and 1.6 hours, respectively, of screen time per day. The Canadian Pediatrics Society’s recommended pediatric guideline recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time per day.
As you might have guessed, the study concludes that too much screen time has led to a slower pace of learning once the child gets into preschool. But before you conclude that this proves how such devices are bad, the study goes into detail on the link between screen time and learning. In a nutshell, the more time a child spends glued to any screen, the less time he or she gets in physical and social activities necessary for early development and learning.
Phones, tablets, and computers are definitely chockful of learning experiences that stimulate the senses and the brain. But younger ages need more than that to develop the skills and cognitive abilities that will help them later on. From motor skills to social interaction to cognitive development, kids only learn these through actual human contact and physical activities, not from watching the same on YouTube.
Parents, however, are also partly to blame, since kids themselves won’t get addicted to such devices on their own at that early age. Instead, some parents have resorted to using phones, tablets, and TVs as substitutes for toys or, worse, human attention. But rather than banning devices completely, the study recommends simply limiting hours and setting “no screen” zones and times, which, in the long run, could even help develop healthier habits and attitudes towards devices.