Excessive exposure to electronic displays would change the brain of children

Children who spend more than two hours a day behind a screen would have their memory and language skills affected, according to preliminary results from a large US study.

Spending hours watching a smartphone, tablet or computer screen would hurt the neurological development of the child, according to a study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In a large study, American scientists scanned the brains of nine- and ten-year-olds in 21 research centers across the United States. Objective: to understand the impact of screens on their brain, their emotional development and their mental health.

More than 11,000 children in total will be followed for a decade.

The first results have just published. They come from MRI examinations and interviews with a panel of 4,500 children. Verdict: It seems that children who spend the most time on a smartphone, tablet or computer screen display brain differences compared to others who have a restricted access to electronic devices.

Specifically, children who spend two hours a day or more behind a screen score lower on cognitive, memory, and language tests than those who spend less time.

Another observation, the brains of children who stay more than 7 hours in front of a screen has a premature thinning of the cerebral cortex, seat of neurological functions such as memory, language, consciousness.

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For now, these observations appear premature to reach any conclusion, notes Gaya Dowling, Director of the NIH study. “We do not know if this is caused by the time spent on the screen, we do not know if it’s a bad thing.” She insists on the importance of waiting for the results of analyzes that will be carried out over time.

A publication of data is expected for early 2019, according to Bloomberg.

The use of screens in children has been the subject of research for years. Nonetheless, childcare scientists and specialists remain divided when it comes to the time not to be exceeded for the mental and physical health of the child. A recent study from San Diego State University suggests that more than one hour of screen access a day would promote anxiety or depression in children.

Shakes Gilles

Editor of The Talking Democrat. He enjoys bike riding, kayaking and playing soccer. On a slow weekend, you'll find him with a book by the lake.