A new study reinforces the importance of limiting screen time for infants. Conducted by researchers at Drexel University and published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the study found an association between infants who spent a significant amount of time in front of an electronic screen and greater autism spectrum disorder symptoms later in childhood.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 2,000 children whose caregivers were asked at 12- and 18-month wellness visits about how much time the child spent in front of a television or tablet. Caregivers were also asked about how much time they spent on playtime with the children. Researchers looked to see whether children displayed autism symptoms at 2 years of age, which can be seen when toddlers are not interested in interacting with others.
The team found significant screen time at 12 months of age was associated with a 4% greater likelihood of symptoms. Children who did not have daily playtime with a parent were 9% more likely to display symptoms compared with children who did have daily play time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization discourage screen time in children who are younger than 18 months of age. The organizations warn it can cause issues with infants’ sleep, weight, and social and emotional development. Children who are between 2 and 5 years old are encouraged to watch no more than one hour of television, preferably educational programming.
There is one exception to the screen time rule for all ages: video chatting. In today’s digital age, it’s OK for children of all ages to interact with their loved ones virtually.