One-year-olds' screen time may lead to developmental delays, study finds

A new study says that more screen time for toddlers might impact the future development of their gross-motor skills and communication and problem-solving skills.

A study finds that the screen time of toddlers can mean developmental delays for them. (Photo: Getty Images)
A study finds that the screen time of toddlers can mean developmental delays for them. (Photo: Getty Images)


The amount of screen time spent by one-year-olds may increase the risk of developmental delays, according to a study.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, showed that for children aged two, increased screen time when aged one was associated with developmental delays in all domains apart from gross motor skills. 

By the age of four however, increased screen time was associated with developmental delays in only the communication and problem-solving domains.

"The differing levels of developmental delays in the domains, and the absence of any detected delay in some of them at each stage of life examined, suggests that the domains should be considered separately in future discussions of the association between screen time and child development," said epidemiologist Taku Obara, at Tohoku University in Japan.

The research examined 7,097 mother-child pairs. Each child's screen time exposure was assessed using parental questionnaires, covering viewing of televisions, video game displays, tablets, mobile phones and other electronic devices with visual displays.

The children in the study were almost evenly split between boys (51.8 per cent) and girls (48.2 per cent). Their screen time exposure was assigned to the categories of less than one hour (48.5 per cent of subjects), from one to less than two hours (29.5 per cent), from two to less than four hours (17.9 per cent), and four or more hours (4.1 per cent).

One reason for undertaking this study was recent evidence published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggesting that only a minority of children are meeting guidelines for limiting screen time exposure. The guidelines were designed to ensure that children engage in sufficient physical activity and social interaction.

"The rapid proliferation of digital devices, alongside the impact of the Covid pandemic, has markedly increased screen time for children and adolescents, but this study does not simply suggest a recommendation for restricting screen time. This study suggests an association, not causation between screen time and developmental delay," Obara said.

"We use the term 'delay' in accordance with previous research, but it is debatable whether this difference in development is really a 'delay' or not. We would like to gain deeper insight in future studies by examining the effects of different types of screen exposure."

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