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Negative Effects of Screen Time on Children’s Development

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The amount of time that children spend on screens (i.e., televisions, computers, IPads, and phones) has become a concern amongst many parents and people who work with children, such as teachers. There has been controversy on whether excessive screen use has negative effects, or perhaps has certain benefits. The guidelines set out by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has put out the statement that children younger than two years old should not have any exposure to screens, and children between the ages of two to five years old should spend no more than one hour per day on digital media use.

Another question that may persist in parent’s minds is whether the information readily available to them on the internet is consistent with scientific research papers. One easily accessible online source, WebMD, backs up the information they provide with reference to research. This site claims that an excessive amount of time spent using screens (i.e., two hours or more) is associated with a decrease in a child’s cognitive reasoning and focusing ability. Decreases in focusing ability are speculated to be due to ads that interrupt regular screen time or continuously changing between different online games. Spending under two hours a day on digital media, getting a minimum of one hour of physical activity, in addition to getting between nine to eleven hours of sleep was correlated with the children who had the highest cognitive functioning. However, this website did not show whether it was the decrease in screen time, or the increase in physical activity and sleep, that actually contributed to improved cognitive functioning.

One more online article from Very Well Family, written by clinical social worker Amy Morrin (2018), cites similar results as the previous website. The claims given in this article are also backed up by research. Obesity, sleep issues, behavioral problems, decreased academic scores, and aggression has been shown to be correlated with an increase in screen usage (Morrin, 2018). The cause of the increased risk of obesity has been associated with the sedentary behavior that digital media use results in. Excessive screen use is also claimed to cause emotional instability and possibly an increase in bullying behavior. Children who spend a considerable amount of time using screens, particularly children who have a television in their rooms, have lower scores in academic performance than children who spend less time using screens. Finally, aggression behavior has been indicated to increase in children who spend an excessive amount of time on screens, potentially as a result of imitating violent behavior that they witness on digital media (Morrin, 2018). Throughout this article, it does not state what is defined as “excessive” or “too much” screen time, so parents reading this article would have a difficult time determining to what extent they should limit their child’s exposure to screens.

A scientific article by Sophie Domingues-Montanari (2017) is similar to the information that is easily available on online websites. This paper showed that excessive screen usage (over the AAP guidelines) was linked with decreased physical strength, increased obesity, decreased sleep, and decreased cognitive functioning and emotional stability. The reasons that this paper gives for why certain children exceed the AAP guidelines is because parents believing that certain television content is educational, or to simply provide entertainment or to distract their children.

High digital media usage has been shown to result in decreased physical strength and gross motor skills in children. In addition to this, increasing the level of physical activity that a child receives is not enough to offset the negative effects of excessive screen usage. Along a similar note, “a 13% incremental increase in obesity risk was reported for each hour per day of TV watching for both boys and girls. It was speculated that the potential for snacking on high-fat or sugary foods increases when watching television, which might be the cause of increased obesity. However, in children whose snacking was limited, the risk of obesity still increased. Sleep duration also decreased in children as the amount of time they spent using screens increased. Decreased cognitive development, delays in language development, and decreased vocabulary was also significantly associated with allowing infants under the age of two years to spend time using screens. Finally, in this article, excessive screen use was shown to increase aggression and emotional instability, as well as increase the risk for developing depression.

Another study performed by Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein (2019) found that children who went over the AAP guidelines for screen usage had disrupted sleep patterns, decreased interactions with other children, decreased time spent in exploratory play, and decreased resilience. However, this study notes that these negative aspects were not related to excessive screen usage in any significant amount.

It appears that the information readily available online and on websites is very similar to what scientific research shows. However, it looks to be the case that material available in non-academic sources presents the illusion that the detrimental effects of excessive screen usage are more significant than they actually are. While the research does show that there is a link between negative and decreased aspects of development and increased screen usage, it may not be significant enough to warrant the strongly worded and definite attitudes that are present in many non-academic sources. More research has to be done before any concrete conclusions can be made, but so far, both academic and non-academic sources admit that there is a link between excessive screen usage and decreased development in certain areas in children.

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Negative Effects Of Screen Time On Children’s Development. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from
“Negative Effects Of Screen Time On Children’s Development.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
Negative Effects Of Screen Time On Children’s Development. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].
Negative Effects Of Screen Time On Children’s Development [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Dec 16 [cited 2022 Jan 22]. Available from:
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