--Original published at Olivia's College Blog
1 in 4 children enrolled in school showed deficits and delays in motor skills and communication. Time spent on digital media could be the source of this delay in children, according to a new study by JAMA pediatrics. The study found that children between the ages of 2 and 3 who were exposed to more screen time scored lower on development tests at milestone ages of 3 and 5 years old.
The first 5 years of life are critical for a child to stay on track with normal growth and development. JAMA pediatrics explains that the deficits that are associated with too much screen time may be caused children replacing important opportunities for learning and growth with the screens. Screen time may also be replacing interaction time with the caregiver.
2,441 mothers and children were recruited for the study between 2008 and 2010. Between 2011 and 2016, children’s development was self-reported by mothers on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire at 2, 3, and 5 years old. Mothers also reported amount of screen usage for different mediums of technology, like phone, tablet, computer, or TV screen.
The child’s development score on the ASQ was representative of their current ability in communication, motor skills, problem solving, and personal-social skills. A low sum of the three scores on the ASQ was indicative of poor development. The research found that more screen time at 24 months produced lower development scores at 36 months, and more screen time at 36 months produced lower development scores at 60 months.It is estimated that children should not exceed one hour per day of screen time, according to the AMA. Today, 98% of US children aged 0-8 spend an average of over 2 hours a day. Dr. Sheri Madigan, lead researcher of the study, explains the harm in too much screen time at a young age: “excessive screen time has been associated with a number of deleterious physical, behavioral, and cognitive outcomes.”
Children of ages 2, 3, and 5 were found to have an average of 2.4, 3.6, and 1.6 hours of screen time daily. While results show a directional association between screen time and poor development, it does not produce causation. The data showed that more screen time was linked to lower ASQ development test scores. The data did not support the obverse relationship of poorer development being related to more screen time.
Like any study, there were numerous possible limitations. It is likely there are other factors that contribute to the effects we see in development from more time spent on screens. Not all children are equally affected by the same amounts of screen time and these differences were not all accounted for, Dr. Madigan explains. Examples she gave of this included gender of the child, maternal depression, and how regularly the child was read to. Any of these factors could have been the cause of poorer development but is shown as a trend that is tied to screen time. There were also few outliers of children who had higher screen time but also showed high scores of developments. One last limitation listed was the focus directed to the screen time. The amount of attention directed to screens during ‘screen time’ could cause these findings to be misinterpreted. There is no guarantee that mothers used the same criteria when reporting amounts of screen time. While the data showed an overall negative correlation between increased screen time and poorer development, it is possible that other factors could have applied a hidden pressure to the results.
This study is one of the first to provide evidence of a directional association between screen time and poor development in children. The good news is that this information can be used proactively to make we are doing our part to make sure our children are not spending too much time on screens.
Psych in the Media Reflection
I found this assignment to be the trickiest portion of our Psych in the Media Project yet. For me, the difficulty of the task came from condensing the loads of data in the findings into one short article. I approached the assignment by considering what the audience would gain the most from reading. I sorted through the research and located the numbers and information that were necessary to include for understanding the basic findings of the research. Then, once I had a rough idea of what I would include, I summarized it. It was good practice to take the information and present it with less jargon for a broader audience. I am majoring in psychology and spend a lot of time in my methods class dissecting research papers. It was nice to step outside of that practice and learn how to present the information to anyone who may not understand specific terms of psychology.
The information that I chose to leave out included most of the statistical data and figures. These results are crucial in presenting findings that lead to published work. However, when presenting the findings as news, it is important to present it in a compelling and attractive way. I liked the flow of the original article, so I aimed to include most of the same information in my version. This assignment would have been even harder if we had to rewrite the article without having to read through the original publication. It was much easier to avoid plagiarizing in our assignment because I had an entire research publication to dissect for new information.
I have always had an appreciation for writers, journalists, and publicists. They are almost like the middle man between the information and the public. This series of assignments has made me view journalists in a new light. They have a lot of power in their hands, and from this assignment, I really do see how most of the information we receive is coming from a secondary source. I never thought about it in that way before, so I appreciate this assignment for making me more skeptical of what I come across in daily news. Many journalists and sources of news may have great content and spread accurate awareness, but it is also alarmingly easy to present the public with false or skewed information. I tried my best to avoid making those mistakes in my article submission, to make the most of the findings of the research on development by JAMA pediatrics.
Howard, J. (2019, January 28). More Screen Time for Toddlers is Tied to Poorer Development a Few Years Later, Study Says. Retrieved January 30, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/28/health/screen-time-child-development-study/index.html
Madigan, S. (2019, March 01). Association Between Screen Time and Child Development. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2722666?guestAccessKey=879c6c87-141e-48f8-8c95-4d684600a644