Can screen time before age 2 lead to this disorder?

Can screen time before age 2 lead to this disorder?

Screen time has long been a topic of conversation in the world of parenting. How much is too much? What content is best? At what age is it appropriate for children to watch television?

According to research published in “JAMA Pediatrics,” screen time in children 2 years and younger may be associated with atypical sensory processing.

Individuals with atypical sensory processing might be over or under responsive to different stimuli. For example, a person with oversensitive sensory processing might find clothing uncomfortable or itchy, lights too bright or sounds too loud. Someone with under sensitive processing may struggle to sit still, chew on things like hands and clothes, or seek thrills through jumping, heights, etc.

Researchers studied survey results from caregivers of about 1,500 children. The survey questions were geared toward assessing a child’s sensory preferences at 33 months of age, asking questions about whether the child avoids or prefers certain textures, lights or noises. They concluded that children exposed to screen time before 1 year of age were twice as likely to experience sensory processing issues. After 18 months of age, every additional hour of screen time correlated with a 20 percent increase in the likelihood of sensory processing differences.

“As a parent and a pediatrician, I would not recommend any screen time before the age of 2,” says Dr. Khin Khin Bremer, a pediatrician with Advocate Health Care. “Too much screen time can affect a child’s development both in speech, language, social and motor skills. Children younger than age 2 develop best when they are physically interacting with toys, puzzles and people. Passively watching a screen does not benefit your child as much as quality time. For children over the age of 2, we would recommend limiting screen time to no more than two hours per day.”

Dr. Bremer offers the following guidance for parents about screen time:
  • Make it educational: Many shows are geared toward teaching young viewers, whether that’s the alphabet, colors or practices like manners and sharing. Find programming that will help you teach your child concepts.
  • Watch with your child: Engage with your child while watching TV. Discuss what you are seeing – ask and answer questions to help enhance their learning.
  • Avoid overstimulation: Certain programs with bright colors, fast transitions and layered sounds can overwhelm a child’s senses and lead to what is often referred to as overstimulation. This can affect mood and behavior and lead to things like tantrums and irritability. You can find many lists of shows that are not considered overstimulating online.

Have more questions about screen time? Speak with your child’s pediatrician. Find one in Illinois or Wisconsin

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.