Your Children’s Screen Time Can Affect Their Brain Development
As you frantically run around trying to get last-minute winter holiday preparations done, you may feel the temptation to hand your toddler a device with a screen to keep them busy. Alternatively, you may sit them down in front of the television while you are busy. Psychologists warn that giving children too much screen time is very detrimental to their development.

MRIs Show Slower Brain Development
Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says that they used MRIs to see brain development in three to five year olds. The tests revealed that those children who regularly had more than one hour of screen time daily had less white matter in their brains.

Why White Matter Is Important
White matter is crucial to your child’s development because it is key to developing language, literacy and cognitive skills. According to Dr. Hutton, the brain is developing faster during the baby and preschool years than at any other time in a person’s life. Therefore, the lack of development during these years can significantly impact a person’s entire life.

Why Is Screen Time Bad?
Babies under the age of one should not have screen time. Numerous studies, including those sponsored by the World Health Organization, show that children cannot learn through watching videos. Some of the skills that babies miss out on developing when they are given a screen to entertain them are:

  • Develop longer attention spans
  • Control impulses
  • Be empathetic towards others
  • Read non-verbal cues
  • Handle frustrations

How Much Screen Time is Bad?
Babies who have not yet celebrated their second birthday should not have any screen time. Toddlers who are not yet five years old should be limited to no more than one hour per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics puts in an exception to the rule that is especially important this year as many families choose to celebrate away from their loved ones. The academy says that time spent video chatting with loved ones does not count, so go ahead and let your babies and toddlers interact with loved ones who are choosing to stay home this holiday season. It will be good for everyone.

What Can You Do to Replace Screen Time?
There are many activities that toddlers can do this holiday season independently while you are busy with last-minute preparations, including:

  • Looking at picture books or listening to auditory stories
  • Color sorting with beads or other objects large enough not to be a choking hazard
  • Easy puzzles
  • Use tongs to pick up their favorite small toys
  • Dress up
  • Make designs with edible playdough

Give yourself the gift of a brighter child this winter holiday season by limiting screen time. While you may have to work a little harder at the moment or use your imagination to come up with more ideas that will hold your child’s attention, you will be helping them in the long run.

References
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6927985/
https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-development/babies-screen-time#:~:text=Exposure%20to%20screens%20reduces%20babies,and%20interacting%20with%20other%20children.
https://www.rallyhealth.com/health/unexpected-effects-screen-time
https://childrenstherapyco.com/blog/2016/1/19/keep-your-child-busy