Too much screen time can affect child’s brain development, study says

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Parents who let their kids spend too much time on electronic devices may be inadvertently hurting their child’s mental development, according to a recent study.

And it’s not the first time that researchers have made those kinds of claims.

Many kids have gone from being preoccupied with playtime with each other to being preoccupied with their devices.

 “Ninety percent of kids are familiar with technology in their first year,” said Frank Manole, a nurse practitioner at Avance Primary Care in Raleigh.

And although a little bit of tech is good- too much of it affects a youngster’s critical brain development.

“The first 3-5 years, that’s when the brain is developing and all the things you need for the rest of your life are happening,” explains Manole.

A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limits on screen-based media use.

Researchers say too much time on devices can lead to:

  • Less socialization
  • Less physical development
  • Eating disorders
  • Behavior and focus issues
  • Unhealthy sleep patterns

Parent Clay Davis says he and his wife are careful about how much screen time their youngsters are exposed to.

“We’ve got a 1-year-old and a 3- and a half-year-old,” he said. The 1-year-old doesn’t get any screen time and the 3 and a half-year-old gets 20-30 minutes a day—at most.”

But, some parents let their kids stay online for up to 12 hours a day.

Those concerned with childhood development say if a child spends more than an hour on a device – that’s when problems develop.

“The device becomes their crutch and they become addicted to it,” said Manole.

Parent Nicole Hughes notices that when her preschooler spends too much time watching TV.

“It changes his behavior,” Hughes said. “He wants to have more and more and more, so when he has more time on it there’s addictiveness that comes out.”

Experts say the point is not to ban devices for your child, just change the way your kids use them.

 “Most studies show about an hour a day in a supervised and constructive way is beneficial to many children,” said Manole.

Teens also need to restrict their device time but for a different reason.

Researchers say teens tend to stay up late impacting their sleep patterns and their ability to concentrate and focus.

Experts recommend setting restrictions on your child’s smartphone to make them inactive during certain hours.

You can do it for Android devices as well as Apple devices right in the phone.

There are also apps that will let you limit screen time on your child’s device too.

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