Study: Too much screen time leads to underdeveloped language and literacy skills

Study: Too much screen time leads to underdeveloped language and literacy skills

Neurons that fire together wire together, but too much screen time interferes with that!

AMERICA: A recent study revealed that too much screen time exposure for toddlers inhibits language and literacy skills.

The results support the benefits of limiting screen time according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. 

Children with screen time exposure more than recommended limits had poorer language and literacy skills
benefits of limiting screen time

Screen time alone isn’t the only cause of developmental delay! | Image source: iStock

The study was published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal.

Out of 47 children between three and five years old that had not started preschool yet, the MRI scans showed children who had higher use of phones or watched TV for longer had less white brain matter.

The lead author, Dr. John Hutton, who is a paediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, advised grey matter informs the body what to do, while white matter helps to make connections.

“Think of white matter as cables, sort of like the telephone lines that are connecting the various parts of the brain so they can talk to each other”, Dr Hutton shared with CNN.

This was closely correlated with poorer literacy abilities. Before the diffusor tensor imaging, an innovative type of MRI used for this study, a series of cognitive tests were given to measure the children’s language and literacy capabilities. Increased screen time was linked to slower rapid object naming and expressive language, skills that are highly relevant to building reading and writing abilities.

benefits of limiting screen time

Dr Hutton shows the strongest concentration of white matter | Image source: CNN

The MRI scans extended screen time resulted in less white matter in three key areas involved with language skills.

“These are tracks that we know are involved with language and literacy,” Hutton said, “And these were the ones relatively underdeveloped in these kids with more screen time. So the imaging findings lined up pretty perfectly with the behavioral cognitive testing finding,” said Dr Hutton.

More evidence for the benefits of limiting screen time for toddlers

benefits of limiting screen time

Make sure the whole family puts down phones | Image source: iStock

The importance of this study lies in being the first to indicate a link between screen time and language delays in young children.

“This is the first study to document associations between higher screen use and lower measures of brain structure and skills in preschool-aged kids,” said Dr Hutton.

The early years are especially important for your little one’s brain development. Their minds are still growing and absorbing so much. Which is why it’s especially important that you spend time talking with your kids, as it can help them grow smart!

Active involvement is a core factor in stimulating your little one’s mind. Playing with digital devices and screen time isn’t the sole problem behind the stunted growth, but the lack of meaningful interactions.

“It’s not that the screen time damaged the white matter,” Dr Hutton advised. 

“Perhaps screen time got in the way of other experiences that could have helped the children reinforce these brain networks more strongly.”

Parents need to be especially mindful of this because recent evidence showed parents spend as much time on their phones as they do with their kids!

Does that change how much time you let your little one play with your phone?

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Written by

Vinnie Wong

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