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7/6/20 blog post

screen time and brain development

how might excess screen time during the lock down impact my child?

During the lockdown, many families found themselves adjusting to increased time in Zoom meetings, e-learning, and FaceTiming with others to maintain social connectedness.

In addition, many parents found themselves working from home while also taking on the role of teacher.  Parents, who are trying to meet a variety of demands, may find that screens are one of their main options for entertaining their child while getting work done.

Many parents may wonder, how will this increase impact my child’s development?

  • Although very much in its early stages, research is emerging examining the relationship between screen time and brain development in young children.
  • A recent study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital revealed that higher amounts of screen time were linked to lower amounts of brain white matter, which is related to the development of literacy and language skills.
  • A 2018 study showed that teenagers spending more time on screens were more likely to show symptoms such as hyperactivity, inattention, and restlessness. 

Parents may be wondering how they can protect their child from the potentially negative impact of excessive screen time when they feel like there are no other choices during the quarantine. 

4 tips for navigating media use during these uncertain times:

1. Co-select and co-view content.

  • Rather than allowing your child to have free reign with their media, preselect some content determined to be developmentally appropriate and provide options for your child.
  • If time allows, co-view content with your child so that you can interact with your child about what they are viewing.
  • Fortunately, there is plenty of wonderful and educational content available for our youth. Common Sense Media is a good resource for finding age-based media reviews.

2. Keep devices within monitoring distance.

  • Make certain zones as “off-limits” for screens, such as bathrooms and bedrooms. Keep your children close by so that, even when working, you can monitor how the devices are being used.

3. Keep a visual list of activities.

  • Include pictures of non-screen activities that children can refer to when looking for something to do.
  • Set up play periods with certain toys or activities (e.g., arts and craft time, coloring). 

4. Make screen time “active.”

  • There are some great resources with wonderful content, such as the Cosmic Kids Yoga channel on YouTube.
  • Encourage your children to get some physical activity during their screen time. 

Remember, we are living in unprecedented times and this situation is temporary. Everybody has been doing the best they can to get through the long quarantine days and even now as things are reopened families are still spending a lot of time at home. As things continue to normal, there are resources that will help families re-establish media balance within the home. The American Academy of Pediatrics created some helpful resources, such as the Family Media Plan.


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Zachary Woessner, PsyD.

behavioral health, psychology
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updates on COVID-19

Please use our coronavirus information hub for resources and answers to frequently asked questions about Dayton Children's response to COVID-19. You can also call our COVID-19 parent hotline at 1-888-746-KIDS (5437) from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm for additional questions. 

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