Screen time can affect a child's development

Screen time for kids: how much is enough?

Mobile phones, tablets and televisions: screens are part of everyday life - and not just for adults. New findings show how negatively too much media consumption affects children.

The use of digital media can negatively affect children. It doesn't just affect their attention. The eyes, language and even the brain can also be damaged, according to scientists.

Early use can damage children's brains

A study by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in the US found that too much screen time can alter the structure of the brain in young children.

The team around Dr. For this purpose, John Hutton examined the so-called white matter by means of magnetic resonance imaging of 47 healthy children between the ages of three and five years. The result: In children who regularly played with smartphones or tablets, the white matter - that is, the conduction pathways and nerve fibers in the brain - was significantly less dense.

According to the researchers, this has direct, measurable effects on children's brain performance. They were more likely to have problems speaking and recognizing objects in cognitive tests. This is not surprising, because the white substance is important for signal and information transport and is therefore responsible for processing in the brain.

It was also shown that the use of technical devices at a young age has a negative influence on the children's attention span.

The study results were published in the English-language journal "AMA Pediatrics". According to the researchers, further studies - especially on the effects of media use in the early stages of brain development - are now required.

Risk of nearsightedness is increased

According to ophthalmologists, excessive use of smartphones, tablets and computers in early childhood can also lead to more myopia.

"Studies show that around 50 percent of myopia is influenced by lifestyle," says Bettina Wabbels from the Bonn University Eye Clinic for the Society for Ophthalmology of the German Press Agency. So far, there is evidence of this mainly from Asian countries. "This wave is rolling towards us now too."

In children under three years of age, frequent staring at computer screens close by leads to the eyeball growing and thus making the eye longer, explains the ophthalmologist. "Once an eye has grown in this way, it no longer shrinks. From the age of twelve, the course is set for the eyes," she adds. Myopia is then sealed for life.

A child is drawing on a tablet: The number of myopic children and adolescents is increasing worldwide. (Source: Chinnapong / Getty Images)

How much screen time is enough?

Experts disagree about how long the appropriate screen time is for toddlers and children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends:

  • for children under one to two yearsno Screen time
  • for children from two to four years a maximum of one hour Screen time per day

The EU initiative for more security on the internet "klicksafe.de" states the following about usage time:

  • Children up to three years: 5 minutes
  • Children from four to six years: 20 minutes (not necessarily daily)
  • Children from seven to ten years: around 30 to 45 minutes a day

This is what paediatricians recommend

The professional association of paediatricians (BVKJ) warns against too early and too intensive media use by children and advises not to use screen media with infants and toddlers under three years of age. Association head Thomas Fischbach said in an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung: "The longer you postpone the use of smartphones by children, the better it is for them." He observes with horror that the children who use smartphones or tablets are getting younger and younger. He recommends: "No cell phone of your own eleven years ago!"

What parents should be aware of

Parents should think about their children's media use and discuss it with their children to educate them about possible dangers. For children, too much media use can mean that they no longer spend enough time playing, learning, communicating or sleeping during the day, report researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Important NOTE: The information in no way replaces professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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