Children in the United States are exceeding screen time recommendations set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). AAP recommends that parents limit screen time to two hours per day for preschool-age children, who are defined as children under five years old. Screen time includes time from television, DVDs,
computers and video games. In a study conducted by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, researchers found that 66% of preschool-age children are exceeding the recommended daily amount of screen time.
Dr. Pooja Tandon and fellow researchers studied nearly 9,000 preschool-age children who took part in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort (ECLS-b), a longitudinal, observational study of over 10,000 children born in 2001 with diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. The ECLS-b used interviews with parents and child care providers to collect data about each child’s daily screen time (Science Daily).
According to Dr. Tandon, “A majority of children under the age of 5 years in the United States spend almost 40 hours a week with caregivers other than their parents, and it’s important to understand what kind of screen time exposure children are getting with these other caregivers.”
The results of the parent and child care provider interview revealed extended screen time for a majority of children. On average, children were exposed to 4 hours of screen time each weekday, with 3.6 hours of exposure coming from home. In home-based childcare setting, children spent a combined average of 5.6 hours watching television or videos at home and while at child care, with 87% exceeding the 2 hour recommendation. In center-based childcare settings, children fared slightly better, watching an approximate total of 3.2 hours each weekday at home and while at childcare. Those children that did not attend any form of childcare, however, were not necessarily better off than children in childcare settings: children who remained at home watched, on average, 4.4 hours each day.
Screen time in young children has been associated with “speech delays, aggressive behavior and obesity, but few states have regulations about screen time in licensed child care settings” (Science Daily). Dr. Tandon believes that such regulations may be helpful in curbing screen time. “Parents can also play an important role,” she suggests, “by making sure all of their child’s caregivers are aware of the AAP’s advice regarding screen time.”
Additionally, screen time shows a positive correlation with autism. Screen time for children with autism further delays social skills and inhibits progress.