Is Too Much Screen-Time Harmful for our Children’s Brain Function?
By Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
Think about the last time you were at a restaurant. If you looked up from your meal and saw a family at a nearby table what were the children doing? A generation ago, the answer might’ve been talking with their family or coloring in the children’s menu. These days things a quite different. It’s not rare to see children on tablets, glued to their screens. This type of screen time is common in today’s world, but begs the question: is it harmful to our children’s brain function?
A new study suggests that it can be, confirming Dr. Ted Baehr’s research and teaching since 1978. Several of Ted’s books address this issue, including his THE CULTURE-WISE FAMILY and his THE MEDIA-WISE FAMILY.
In the study, researchers evaluated the time over 4,000 children spent on screens compared to other daily activities, like physical activity and sleeping. Lead researcher, Dr. Jeremy Walsh stated his team’s finding in the journal of The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health. “Evidence suggests that good sleep and physical activity are associated with improved academic performance, while physical activity is also linked to better reaction time, attention, memory and inhibition,” Walsh said.
To summarize, limiting screen time = improved brain function.
Additionally, Walsh’s team found, “only one in 20 children in the USA met all three guidelines [sleeping, physical activity and screen time], while nearly one in three met none of them.” Another survey from parents found that “ninety-eight percent of households with children 8 and under, rich and poor, now have access to a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. That is up from 52 percent just six years ago.”
Our children are dealing with development concerns that we never had, and it’s making them addicted to screens. So, what are some practical ways for you to help your children combat the ever-present media influx of today? Start off by limiting your children’s screen-time. Dr. Ted Baehr, the American Pediatric Association and pediatrician Cris Rowan recommends that from ages 0-2 years, children shouldn’t have any media access. As your children get older, start slowly implementing the media and screens, but with time constraints and boundaries. In the same way, we need to be good examples for our children by practicing what we preach and that means exercising good media habits too.
Sometimes it can feel like the news offers only scary information about the dangers of media. While we need to practice the discipline of mindfulness, bear in mind that there are good uses for the media that benefit society. Although the media shows no promise of slowing down, we are not powerless. With prayer and biblically rooted wisdom, we can help raise up the next generation of media-mindful people.
“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather be chosen than silver!” – Proverbs 16:16 (KJV)
For more helpful insight into your children’s media exposure, read Movieguide® Founder, Dr. Ted Baehr’s books The Culture-Wise Family and The Media-Wise Family.