The Effect of Screen Time on Child Development

children looking down at devices


It is no secret that technology has become a prominent part of the latest generations’ upbringing. With all of the new phones, tablets, and gadgets, there are also new educational software and learning programs designed specifically for kids. Though most of these programs are designed to be beneficial to children’s learning, it has actually been found to have detrimental effects on early childhood development.

According to an article written by Harvard Medical School, using blue-light emitting screen devices like smartphones and tablets before bed can heavily disrupt sleep patterns in children. They suppress the secretion of melatonin, which is a natural hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle in humans. Sleep is absolutely imperative to brain development, especially at an early age.

An excessive amount of screen time increases maximum stimulation to children’s brains and doesn’t ever allow them to be bored. “Boredom is the space in which creativity and imagination happen,” says Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. The technological overload that children are experiencing doesn’t allow them to have original thoughts and feelings. This teaches them possibly unauthentic habits and emotions that they have watched on their screens, not in real life.

Researchers have also looked at the correlation in screen time and child development. It was found that children ages 2-5 years old were watching up to 25 hours of television per week. With all this time spent indoors and eyes peeled to the screens, kids are not getting the outdoor cardiovascular activity nor the vitamin D that are both vital to a strong foundation of development. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends to completely avoid digital media for children younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. Children, ages 2 to 5, should only be consuming 1 hour a day of high-quality programming.

Help your children become healthy communicative beings at an early age with these tips:

  • Help your kids plan their free time: playdates, activities, and crafts. Get them excited about something other than a video game.
    Learn first hand what is going on in these tv shows and video games. This is informative and can be telling of possible new or unusual behavior in your children.
    Lead by example: put down your own devices and be present.

For more ways to keep your kids entertained, check out our Keep Your Kids Moving this Winter post or our post Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Active in Summer!