(Good Medical Health) – Infants who spend too much time in front of their TVs, tablets and smartphones may not become as proficient in problem-solving, communication and other skills needed at school as their children comrades have less time on the screen, according to a new study.

The children in the study spent an average of 17 hours on screen a week at the age of two and 25 hours a week at the age of three. This far exceeds the daily limit of an hour recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in order to give children enough time for creative games and interactions with caregivers and their peers.

"Screen time is most often sedentary or passive, with very few learning opportunities," said lead author Sheri Madigan of the University of Calgary and University of Calgary. the Alberta Children's Research Institute in Canada.

Part of the problem is that the brains of toddlers are not sufficiently developed to apply what they learn from two-dimensional screens to what they live in three-dimensional life, Madigan said by e-mail.

"If they see building blocks on the screen, it will not help them build blocks in real life," Madigan said.

Another reason that the time spent on the screen can slow down the development is that the hours spent in front of the TVs and tablets mean that children may not be able to scribble with crayons or play to games that help them learn to hit a ball or take turns.

"These are essential skills in early childhood because mastering these skills is necessary before further development can take place," Madigan said. "You have to walk before you can run and you have to know how to hold a pencil before you can write your name."

Compared to toddlers with less screen time, 2-year-olds with more screen time tended to have lower scores at 3 years on developmental testing. who measured communication, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving and social skills.

The same pattern was observed in three-year-olds. The more time they spent on the screen, the more successful they were in developmental testing at the age of five.

For the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers interviewed 2,441 Canadian mothers about how much their children spent on weekdays and weekends watching television, movies or videos. play video games; or using computers, tablets or other devices such as smartphones.

Mothers also completed questionnaires on children's progress and a series of development milestones during the study.

The researchers also tested the reverse causality, that is to say, they wanted to know if parents chose to place young children with developmental problems in front of screens more than the children below. age having no development problems. However, this did not seem to be true, suggesting that the time spent in front of a screen may have contributed to developmental delays, and not that these delays could have caused children to have more time on the screen.

The study was not a controlled experiment designed to prove whether time spent in front of a screen early in childhood could directly influence developmental outcomes later in childhood.

However, this adds to a growing body of evidence linking limited screen time to better cognitive, physical and psychological development in early childhood, said Gary Goldfield, a researcher at the University of Ottawa who did not participated in the study.

"The majority of kids of all ages are exceeding screen time recommendations, so parents need to be stricter by setting healthy limits," Goldfield said via e-mail.

"For those who go beyond the guidelines, parents can mitigate some of the negative effects of time spent on the screen by ensuring that it does not interfere with adequate sleep (which is often the case in older children and young people), in daily physical activity or in active games, and in many enriching activities, stimulating and positive face-to-face interaction with parents, educators and, of course, other children, "added Goldfield .

According to Dr. Suzy Tomopoulos, NYU Langone Children's Hospital of Hassenfeld and New York's Bellevue Hospital Center, when kids have time in front of the screen, it should be high quality programming designed For the development.

"Parents can minimize risk if the time spent on the screen is child-friendly, has educational content and is watched with the child," said Tomopoulos, who did not participate in the study, by e-mail. "Parents should also turn off the television when no one is watching them, during meals and an hour before bedtime."

SOURCE: bit.ly/2DEBVK7 JAMA Pediatrics, online January 28, 2019.