Child academic success, mental health impacted by screen time as infants, according to new study

WASHINGTON D.C. — New research shows putting your infants in front of a screen could impact their educational success and emotional health later. The study comes as parents and doctors regularly debate how much screen time for children is too much.


Nowadays you can find a screen almost anywhere you go -- whether it’s your phone, tablet or TV, it’s hard to shield your kids from screen time. According to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics, that could have long-term consequences for your child.

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The investigation included hundreds of children, whose parents documented screen time when they were infants. Researchers then followed up to test the kids around nine years old.

The results show more screen time for babies was associated with decreases of what’s called “executive functioning.” That becomes very important.

“The best way I can describe is sort of the air traffic control of your brain,” clinical psychologist at Children’s National Hospital Dr. Michael Mintz said. “Executive functioning is a part of so many aspects of your life, but in particular learning, attention, self-regulation, the ability to kind of calm the body.”

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It’s important to note because screen time in this study was reported by parents and not observed by researchers, we don’t know if screen time here means having the TV on in the background or sticking the child in front of some sort of device.

Sometimes parents need to get things done -- that load of laundry isn’t going to wash itself.

We asked Dr. Joseph McGuire, clinical psychologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine what parents need to know.

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“The big takeaway from this study for parents is be mindful of screen time,” he said. “Does that mean sitting your child or your infant in front of screen time, you know, for 25 minutes or 30 minutes is the end of the world? Probably not, no, but I think the bigger thing is thinking about making it a habit.”

Doctors also said more study is needed to figure out if screen time actually caused these deficits or there are other contributing factors.

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