We’ve been living with easy access to TV, computer, tablet, and smartphone screens for years, but the research on the resulting effects to our bodies—and our children’s bodies—has only recently started to pour in. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
One recent study shows that almost 30 percent of children aged 7 to 12 who did not previously have myopia, or nearsightedness, developed the condition between 2010 and 2013. Another recent study found that children aged 8 to 11 who have more than two hours of screen time-per-day show signs of lower cognitive function. And a June 2018 study published in Pediatric Research found that many parents either escape into their iPhones or give their children a screen when they are having a tantrum, which actually leads them to act out more later on.
Child psychiatrists are also increasingly concerned about the fact that many kids who grew up with technology now seem incapable of reading the time on a traditional clock, and are having trouble gripping pens or pencils. The situation is so dire that Silicone Valley parents are asking babysitters to sign contracts guaranteeing their kids won’t be exposed to any technology while they are in their care.
Now, a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics claims that the amount of screen time the average toddler has is even higher than we realized. The study notes that, in 1997, children under the age of 2 spent roughly 1.32 hours per day staring at screens. In 2014, that number nearly doubled to 3.05 hours.
Given that the study is limited to 2014, one can only wonder what that number looks like in 2019. And it’s worth noting that most of the screen time reported in the research was actually via traditional television and not tablets, smartphones, or computers.
“There is growing concern over the amount of time that children, particularly very young children, spend watching shows and in front of screens,” said Weiwei Chen, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and lead author of the study. “Our findings were surprising as it feels like mobile devices are omnipresent, but televisions are still the most common way for young children to consume media.”
And for more on the health effects of watching too much tube, read up on How Watching Too Much TV Can Actually Kill You.