Scientists Warn Exposing Infants To Screens May Lead To Developmental Delays

In Education

Babies today, like many adults, are often drawn to colorful screens. Parents might be tempted to use screens as babysitters, but recent research from Japan warns against exposing one-year-olds to screens due to potential developmental risks.

Screen time below one year leads to developmental delays

Researchers from Tohoku University and Hamamatsu University School of Medicine found that screen time for one-year-old babies is linked to developmental delays. They analyzed 7,097 mother-baby pairs in the Three-Generation Cohort Study and Tohoku Medical Megabank Project Birth, evaluating screen exposure through parental questionnaires, encompassing various electronic devices.

The study included a nearly equal distribution of boys (51.8%) and girls (48.2%). Researchers categorized the children into four groups based on their screen time: less than 1 hour (48.5%), between one and less than 2 hours (29.5%), two to less than four hours (17.9%), and more than 4 hours (4.1%).

Researchers tracked children’s development at ages two and four across five domains: communication, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem-solving, and personal and social skills. Previous studies didn’t delve into these domains, making this research the most comprehensive on the topic so far. Using statistical analysis, the team found a dose-response relationship between screen time at age one and later developmental delays, indicating that the amount of screen time was linked to the level of developmental delay.

Increased screen time at around age one is linked to developmental delays in various domains for two-year-olds, except for gross motor skills. By age four, it is only associated with delays in communication and problem-solving skills.

Developmental delays vary across different stages

Corresponding study author Taku Obara said that the varying degrees of developmental delays in different domains and the occasional absence of delays at different life stages indicate the need to address each domain individually when discussing the relationship between screen time and child development.

The research team conducted this study in response to recent evidence from the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which indicates that only a small number of children adhere to screen time limits meant to encourage physical activity and social interaction.

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