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An new article in the Archives of Disease in Childhood looks at the amount of time spent by children viewing tv screens or media screens. It claims that “the average ST [screen time] in the home for young British adolescents is 6.1 h/day, and this is rising significantly.6 Canadian children spend 7.8 h/day, and American children 7.5 h: 55% of their waking lives.”
The US Department of Health and Human Services’ main aims is to decrease the number of children between 0 and 2 years viewing tv and to reduce the time spent watching tv for 2-18 year olds to 2 hours per day. Currently, there are no similar guidelines for the UK or EU.
The Australian Department of Health and Ageing has issued similar guidelines, as has the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), adding: ‘media—both foreground and background—have potentially negative effects and no known positive effects for children younger than 2 years.’ The references claim that this increases sedentary behaviour and reduces the amount of time for active play, social interaction and language development. Furthermore, another reference in the paper claims that “Although infant/toddler programming might be entertaining, it should not be marketed as or presumed by parents to be educational,” and that parents should spend more time trying to educate their children.
The article then looks at the various risks of screen time, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD), not to mention. Increased TV viewing was also shown to increase BMI and it claims that preschool children who are fatter and less active in their early years will suffer further down the line. Then there is also the debate over what all this increase in screen time is doing to the brain neurologically. There have been suspicions but there is not an awful lot of science.
Perhaps the most startling recommendation of this article is that because 80% of an adult brain size growth occurs during a child’s first 3 years, that screen time should be minimised or even banned until that age of 3 years old, in order to protect it from physical and mental harms.
What do you think? Is this a worry? What are the other options? Are parents too busy?