Affect of Screen Time on Kids’ Brains

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Our Saturday green news brings you the latest on health, parenting and cool baby and kid products:

kids and screen time

Photo courtesy of Marcus Kwan via Flickr

  • Affect of screen time on kids’ brains: According to a number of recent studies, there is a connection between extended exposure to electronic devices and delayed cognitive development. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that American children spend on average about 7 hours a day in front of electronic media. Other statistics indicate that children as young as 2 years old regularly play iPad games or are engaged in playing toys with touch screens. As Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, explains: “When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon, is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.” Parents should understand that providing screen time in order to give their children an educational tool may actually do significantly more harm than good. Our brains develop very quickly between birth and age 3, therefore this period particularly sensitive to the environment around us. In medical terms this is referred to as “the critical period”, since the changes that occur in our brain will lay the permanent foundation upon which all later brain functions are built. When a young child spends too much time in front of a screen without getting enough stimuli from the real world, her development becomes stunted.
  • Possible link between Tylenol intake during pregnancy and autism risk: According to a new study reported in Science Daily, paracetamol (acetaminophen), which is used extensively during pregnancy, has a strong association with autism spectrum symptoms in boys and for both genders in relation to attention-related and hyperactivity symptoms. Commonly marketed under the brand name Tylenol or Panadol, acetaminophen is one of the most used pain killers in the world, raising concerns for both researchers and pregnant women: “This is the first study of its kind to report an independent association between the use of this drug in pregnancy and autism spectrum symptoms in children.” The study evaluated 2,644 children across Spain over a five-year period, first at age one and then at age five. Around 40 % of these children were exposed to acetaminophen during the first 32 weeks of pregnancy. The results indicated that at age five, those who were exposed to acetaminophen were more likely to show signs of hyperactivity or impulsivity symptoms. Those who were persistently exposed “showed poorer performance on a computerized test measuring inattention, impulsive behavior and visual speed processing.
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