by Devin Kosiorowski ‘24
It’s common to walk into any sort of public setting and see a young child, with their parents, who is staring at a phone or tablet screen. Parents frequently, if understandably, rely heavily on screens to keep their children occupied. Researchers are only just discovering the long term effects of extended screen time on young children and their crucial social and emotional development.
According to an article published by the NewYork-Presbyterian, a medical website that has information on a variety of health-related matters, half of all children who are eight years or younger and have their own tablet device spend an average of more than two hours on that device a day. This amount of screen time can reduce performance levels on language tests and thin the brain’s cortex, diminishing the ability to reason and think logically.
“If young children spend most of their time engaging with an iPad, smartphone, or the television, all of which are highly entertaining, it can be hard to get them engaged in non-electronic activities … and playing with other children to develop appropriate social skills,” explained Dr. Jennifer F. Cross, an expert in Pediatric Behavior & Development, in the article.
In addition, an increase in screen time hinders children’s literacy development. Lauren Lowry is a Certified SLP and Clinical Staff Writer for the Hanen Centre, which focuses on helping children and their communication skills. In a 2020 study, Lowrey explains that results have shown toddlers between the ages of 17 and 36 months had smaller vocabularies when they spent more time viewing screens.
Experts believe such outcomes are why it is important for parents to find alternative methods in keeping their children focused on certain activities. One idea that many researchers support is waiting to give children their own electronics until an older age. Another recommended method to limit screen use is to set up “screen time” on children’s devices. All Apple devices have the feature and there are many websites in which parents can set up limits within the device.