One-year-olds who spend more time in front of screens are at an increased risk of developmental delays in areas such as fine motor skills, communication, and social skills by the age of two, according to a new Japanese study.
At the age of four, high screen time is also associated with developmental delays in problem-solving and communication.
Researchers at Tohoku University and Hamamatsu University School of Medicine in Japan examined 7,097 mother-child pairs who participated in the Tohoku Medical Megabank Project Birth and Three-Generation Cohort Study. Through questionnaires, they looked at the children’s screen time with TVs, video games, mobile phones, tablets, and other potential screens.
Of the children, 51.8% were boys and 48.2% were girls. The researchers then looked at the relationship between screen exposure for children at the age of one and five different areas of so-called developmental delays at the ages of two and four.
They specifically looked at whether screen exposure for one-year-olds could lead to various developmental delays at the ages of two and four, in areas such as communication, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem-solving, and personal and social skills. The children were divided into categories for those who spent less than one hour per day (48.5%), one to two hours a day (29.5%), two to four hours (17.9%), and four or more hours (4.1%).
The study, published in the scientific journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that two-year-olds who had higher screen time at the age of one were associated with developmental delays in all areas except gross motor skills. At the age of four, more extensive screen time was associated with developmental delays in communication and problem-solving.
The study indicates that the varying levels of developmental delays in different areas, and the fact that no delays were detected in some of these areas at any of the examined life stages, suggest that these areas should be considered separately in future discussions on the relationship between screen time and children’s development.
In an American study published earlier this year, researchers also concluded that increased screen time for children is associated with suicidal thoughts. The study showed that each additional hour children spent on a screen was associated with a 9% increase in suicidal tendencies two years later.