Children’s success in school depends on screen time as babies

Science and Health

If the warning of the head of public health services of the United States, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who recently stated that he believes that 13 is too young for kids to be on social media platforms, didn’t worry you, maybe this study will.

Allowing babies to watch tablets and television may harm their academic achievements and their future emotional well-being, according to a new study. Researchers have found that increased use of screen time during infancy leads to worse executive functioning at age nine.

The study was recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The results support the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics which state that babies shouldn’t have any screen time before the age of 18 months, with the exception of video calls.

Why shouldn’t babies have screen time?

Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child states that executive functioning skills are mental processes that enable people to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and successfully juggle multiple tasks. 

Toddler using a laptop (illustrative) (credit: PUBLICDOMAINPICTURES.NET)

Dr. Erika Chiappini, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, told CNN that these executive functioning skills are needed for higher-level cognition such as emotional regulation, advanced learning, academic achievement and mental health. 

They affect our success socially, academically and professionally, according to her, and in how we take care of ourselves. Chiappini, who wasn’t involved in the research, added that although these cognitive processes develop naturally from infancy to adulthood, they’re also affected by the experiences we have and when we have them in our development.

The study examined data from Growing Up in Singapore Towards Health Outcomes, or GUSTO, the country’s largest and most comprehensive birth cohort study. Women from all socioeconomic backgrounds were surveyed during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The sample included 437 children who were given an EEG scan to test the neural pathways of the brain’s cognitive function. The parents reported each child’s screen time, and researchers discovered that there’s a connection between screen time in infancy and attention and executive function at age nine.

However, more research is needed to determine if screen time caused executive function to be deficient or whether there are other factors in the child’s environment that cause them to be hindered both by more screen time and poorer executive function, the study noted.