Does screen-based media have an association with brain development and one’s ability to learn language and literacy skills in preschool-aged children?

 According to a study done at the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center and published on MOnday on JAMA pediatrics, the answer is overwhelmingly yes. According to the study, there is a strong association between the development of preschool-aged children’s brains and screen use. This study was conducted on 47 children using guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP). The researchers used a 15-item questionnaire asking the children’s parents about access to screens, frequency of use, content viewed, and co-viewing. The main takeaway was there is a strong correlation between screen-use and a child’s ability to learn literacy and language skills.

This study raises questions as to whether at least some aspects of screen-based media use in early childhood may provide sub-optimal stimulation during this rapid, formative state of brain developmen

The study also produced recommendations for parents, which will be focused on in the remainder of this post. In today’s society, screen-time can be used like an “emotional pacifier” to effectively keep children calm and quiet, but the study shows that children under 18 months shouldn’t really be using electronics at all. If the child is to be using digital media under the age of 18 months, it should only be used for video chatting to connect with family members away from the child. For children between 18 and 24 months, screen-time should always be with a parent to exhibit good screen habits because children are learning from the behavior of their parent. For children aged 2-5, screen-time should be limited to no more than one hour a day of high-quality programming with the supervision of a parent. Although it is still best to keep screens away from children all together, parents should do their research and find apps that are age-appropriate and interactive.

 Another important aspect of limiting children’s media use is creating meaningful time where screens are not allowed, such as during meal-times and in the bedroom.

Media can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family-time, outdoor-play, exercise, unplugged downtime and sleep

Setting a good example for your children is extremely important because children are always learning from the habits of their parents. If a parent stresses meaningful face-to-face interactions, the child will often stress that too. Also, while online, make sure to practice safe and respectful behavior in order to set a good example for your child.

 Although social media applications can be harmful, they are also crucial for a teen’s social development. Social media can help a teen make friends and help them explore new things about themselves. Although, make sure they are being safe and respectful to both themselves and other users. Teens need to know the risks involved with social media and know how to protect their privacy. Stress the fact that any information put onto the internet is there indefinitely and becomes part of their digital footprint.

 In the end, kids may still make mistakes using the internet, but it’s important that they learn from their mistakes and that their parents are there to help them learn how to use the internet with respect for both themselves and other users. In the age where cyber-bullying and sexting is extremely prevalent, let them know that mistakes that one has when they are young can have a strong impact on them when they are older. Although social media and technology can be harmful, it is now a part of growing up and it is still better to use it intelligently than not at all.

 Helping a child understand how to have a safe online presence is now an extremely important part of being a parent. Make sure to have safe guidelines that reflect how you would want your child to act in the real world. For small children, screen time can be a time of growth and learning with the proper guidance of a parent. For older children, it can a place where one finds out what kind of person they want to be.