Too much screen time at young age linked to higher likelihood of developmental delays, study finds

Scientists found the more electronics babies were given, the more likely they were to exhibit developmental delays.

ByDenise Dador KABC logo
Friday, September 22, 2023
Too much screen time linked to detrimental effects in kids: Study
Should parents limit screen time for young kids? A study found that too much screen time was linked to higher likelihood of developmental delays.

Giving your phone or tablet to very young children to keep them occupied may seem like a good idea at the time, but experts advise looking for other ways to calm your kids. A study found that early screen use can have long-term negative effects.

Judging those who give young kids phones or tablets is easy when you're not a parent.

"You see people doing that and you're like, 'I'm never going to do that. I'm not going to be that kind of parent,'" said Chantall Dodd-Sanchez of San Jacinto.

As a new mom, it can be hard to stick to ideals.

"You're like, 'Oh my gosh! I need a little extra help,'" she said.

But new research finds too much help from screens could have detrimental effects. Researchers in Japan asked the parents of 8,000 babies to log digital usage.

"The study was very powerful, and it was a large group of individuals being followed across time," said Dr. Evita Limon-Rocha, a child psychologist with Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center.

A study in JAMA pediatrics compared the hours of screen time usage up to age 1 to developmental delays at ages 2 and 4.

Limon-Rocha said babies exposed to four hours a day fared the worst.

"There were difficulties with problem solving and communication," she said.

Scientists found the more electronics babies were given, the more likely they were to exhibit developmental delays. Limon-Rocha says the study shows the value of face-to-face interaction and how it conveys language and meaning.

"We learn a lot when we're interacting with each other. They're learning a lot in terms of facial expression," she said.

The good news? Limon-Rocha said some developmental delays can be reversed. Talk to your pediatrician if you notice any. The research didn't distinguish between educational versus entertainment videos.

Dodd-Sanchez puts strict limits on her son's screen time, always looks for engaging content and interacts with him.

"He's not just sitting there and just zoning out like a little zombie," Dodd-Sanchez said.

Except for video chatting, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for no screen time for kids 18 to 24 months. For kids 2 to 5 years old, the recommendation is an hour or less. But doctors said don't feel bad if every now and then you need a digital time out.

"Life is busy. Life is hectic. This is new information to give us more tools for parents to make the best decisions that make the most sense for their individual families," said Limon-Rocha.

MORE: 13-year-olds are too young for social media, US Surgeon General says

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms. Lauren Glassberg has the story.