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Last post I wrote about the effect screen time is having on our kids Health and the potential cause of a decrease in sporting participation in and out of school. Over the past two weeks this has led to further discussions with parents and members in and out of the gym. One of of our members put me on to a study on the association between screen time and Children performance on a Developmental screening test.

The study was published by Dr Sheri Madigan of the University of Calgary and was designed to find any negative effect that screens are having on our children’s development (1). The study was done on 2441 mothers and children in the city of Calgary Alberta Canada between 2011 and 2016. At three stages of a child development 24, 36 and 60 months old parents completed a questionnaire that tests a child’s development in 5 domains: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal social. see Sample Test in References (2). At the same ages parents would report on the amount of hours per week their child spent on devices, including television. The amount of hours per day was supportive of other studies into screen time. At ages 24 months an average of 2.4 hour per day on screens, at 36 months 3.6 hours and at 60 months average screen time dropped to 1.6 hours due to the age of children starting school. The intent of the study was to find out if there was any relation between higher amounts of screen time and underdevelopment in children’s developmental milestones. The study’s secondary focus was to see if it could be the other way around and that undeveloped children would then spend more time on screens. What comes first the chicken or the egg??

The findings where that Children with higher screen time would see lower scores at the next testing. So a child with higher screen time at 24 months old seen below average scores on 36 month development test and then again at the 60 month test. The result is a high association between screen time and under development in children’s cognitive and social performance. This was not seen in the reverse so children with low development at 24 months did not then have an increase screen time at 36 months.

The results found an association, but this study does not give a direct cause to under development. There is a direct link to screen time but there is still a question of what is causing the delay in development. Is it an effect the that screens are having on a child’s brain??? or is it a lack of active play due to the time kids are spending on screens, known as mist opportunities?? This study was only published in 2018 and the more digitally advanced we become the more evidence we will see of the effect that devices are having on our kids cognitive and social development. Dr Madigan discusses the study in a podcast with the Brain Child podcast linked in references (3) I strongly suggest that parents have a listen to this great podcast where Dr Madigen explains the findings of her study.

References:

1. Association Between Screen time and Children’s Performance on Developmental Screening Test.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2722666

2. Ages and Stages Questionnaire ASQ-3 (sample)

https://agesandstages.com/resource/asq-3-48-month-questionnaire/

3. Brain Child Podcast with Dr Madigan

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/screen-time-with-dr-sheri-madigan/id1441053935?i=1000433725715