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Excessive screen time in young children is associated with developmental delay

Background

Current guidelines recommend no screen time for children under 2 years old and a maximum of 1 hour of educational content for children aged 2 to 5, yet in the U.S., children are exposed to screens for more than 2 hours per day. This steep increase in screen time in young children has raised concerns over its effects on their development. Studies investigating childhood development and screen time have been conducted primarily in Western countries, and therefore, this study explored this topic in children living in India.

The study

This population-based cross-sectional study in 718 children in India (ages 5 and younger; 396 from rural areas, and 322 from cities) assessed the children’s development and analyzed the results against estimated (parent-reported) screen-time use.

Excessive screen time was defined as any screen time for children under 2 years of age and more than 1 hour per day of screen time for children 2 to 5. A speech pathologist assessed the children's development in their homes using a developmental checklist that covered eight developmental domains (gross motor skills, fine motor skills, receptive language, expressive language, activities of daily living, cognitive skills, and social and emotional development).

The results

Less than 5% of the parents implemented screen-time rules. The average amount of screen time was 2.39 hours per day, and 73% of the children engaged in excessive screen time. Excessive screen time was associated with the mother's use of media and the child's use of media at bedtime. Higher screen-time use was strongly associated with developmental delay in both age groups, particularly in the language domains.

Note

The authors note that this study was conducted in a small section of India, so the results may not be generalizable to other countries.

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