Are screens affecting our children’s brains?

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been studying the effect of screen time for children. The preliminary results are in and they’re not good.

The NIH report shows that nine- and ten-year-old children who spend more than two hours in front of a screen each day score lower on thinking and language tests. This is troubling since the average “tweenager” spends up to six hours a day on their tablet or phone.

In addition, scientists have found that children with daily screen usage of more than seven hours show premature thinning of the brain cortex. This is the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world. While it’s too soon to know with certainty that screen time usage caused the changes to the children’s brains, scientists will be monitoring this relationship carefully.

Are your children addicted to technology?

The NIH report is just one example of the growing effect of technology on our children. Another study related smartphone use by children to sleep deprivation and other problems associated with poor attention spans. This is alarming since two-thirds of children take their smartphones to bed with them.

One group of scientists found that the more time four-year-olds spent interacting with media, the shorter their sleep was at ages four and six. A study published by Harvard Medical School has shown that blue-tinged light emitted by devices such as smartphones and tablets suppresses the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone vital to good sleep.

Counselors warn that digital addiction is a growing problem. The compulsion to continue playing video games or using technology is escalating. China has identified internet addiction as one of its main public health risks. In some parts of Asia, digital addiction rates may be as high as 26 percent.

Among American children between the ages of eight and eighteen, around 8 percent could already be classified as addicted. A 2010 study found that children in…

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