When Your Child Starts Watching TV Could Impact Their Academic Success, Per New Study

Infants between 6 and 18 months are exposed to two to three hours of screen time per day, a new report says.

In 1981, the Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health made some important calculations.

“Children are one third of our population and all of our future,” the panel said.

Technology has advanced dramatically in the 42 years since the group crunched those serious numbers and now new research is raising concerns about tech’s impact on children.

A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics warned that allowing infants to watch tablets and TV may have a negative impact down the road.

“Since the advent of mobile electronic devices, infants aged between 6 and 18 months are exposed to two to three hours of screen time per day,” the report said.

The report said that research evidence is mounting for the association between infant screen use and negative cognitive outcomes related to attention and executive function.

Executive function includes proficiency in adaptable thinking, planning, self-monitoring, self-control, working memory, time management, and organization.

Warnings About Children’s Screen Time

“In short, increased screen time in infancy is associated with impairments in cognitive processes critical for health, academic achievement, and future work success,”.the report said. 

The study looked at data from Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes, or GUSTO, which surveyed women from all socioeconomic backgrounds during their first trimester of pregnancy. 

A group of 437 children underwent electroencephalography (EEG) scans that were used to look at the neural pathways of cognitive functions in the brain, at age one, 18 months and 9 years old.

Increased use of screen time during infancy was associated with poorer executive functioning once the child was 9 years old.

“Given the pervasiveness of infant screen use, our findings have public health implications on a population level,” the study said and called for further research.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies younger than 18 months get no screen time at all. The exception to this rule is video chatting with grandparents or other family members or friends.

For children between 18 and 24 months old, the academy said screen time should be limited to watching educational programming with a caregiver. Letting children use media alone should be avoided.

The academy advised turning off televisions and other devices when not in use and avoid using media as the only way to calm a child.

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