Preparing to Learn – Screen Time

The final post in our preparing to learn series will discuss the ways in which screen time and blue light can negatively affect learning.

Screen Time

child watching tvIn this modern world it is easy to live a life saturated by screen time. Screens seem to have infiltrated every part of our lives, with phones in our pockets, computers in our offices, and televisions in our homes. This saturation of screens has caused concern among some parents who wonder how much and how often their children should be exposed to media. In this post we will explore some emerging research about how screens can affect young brains.

Although there is not a large amount of conclusive research on the topic, as screen-saturated lifestyles are a very recent phenomenon, there is research suggesting that exposing children to too much screen time at a very early age can impair their cognitive development. This can cause delays in language acquisition and other key skills learned in the first few years of life. This could be due in part to the reduction of human-to-human interaction that happens when children consume too much media. Young learners excel when they spend plenty of time interacting and playing with other people, and when this is exchanged for spending time with a screen, babies and young children could be adversely affected.

The developmental delays that result from the over-consumption of media are not only detrimental early in life, in fact consuming too much media at a young age can reverberate throughout someones life in many ways. It has been found that as children age, they may experience difficulties making friends and interacting in social situations. This has been linked with an over-use of electronic devices, and may lead to isolation and loneliness in adolescents and teens.

baby eating a phoneSome have argued that electronic use can actually help children learn. There are many apps, games, movies, and tv series which contain educational content and are aimed at younger audiences. However, there is not much research which can verify that consuming this type of media content leads to much developmental or educational progress in young children.

Given that mass media use is such a recent phenomenon, it is unlikely that we will be able to fully understand the scope of its affects for many years. As parents, it can be hard to know what the best approach to media use is, with so many conflicting messages and the ubiquity of screens in our lives. To help you make the decisions that will best support your family, the Canadian Pediatric Society has released a study and associated guideline for screen time, and the American Pediatric Association has recently updated their guidelines for screen time as well.