Excessive exposure to screens changes children's brains

Published 05.11.2019 11:55
Updated 20.12.2019 01:27
A small girl plays with a computer under the supervision of an adult. File photo
A small girl plays with a computer under the supervision of an adult. (File photo)

It is truly the era of the touch-screen, in which we are almost obliged to spend every day flitting between our smart phones, computers and tablets. We also share these gadgets with our increasingly more tech-savvy children, right down to the toddler phase.

However, a new study has shown that these screens cause structural differences to develop in the minds of pre-school children, especially in parts that are associated with language and other literacy skills.

According to an article published on Science Daily, a study was implemented to take MRI scans of 47 healthy children between the ages of 3 to 5. While the study did not learn precisely how screen time morphed their brains, it did show that skills such as their speed in mental processing was affected. The study showed that children who engaged in more screen time had lower structural integrity among the white matter tracts located in the area of the brain that supports language as well as imagery and executive functions, which account for mental control and self-regulation.

"This study raises questions as to whether at least some aspects of screen-based media use in early childhood may provide sub-optimal stimulation during this rapid, formative state of brain development," said Dr. John Hutton, director of the Reading & Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and lead author of the study. "While we can't yet determine whether screen time causes these structural changes or implies long-term neurodevelopmental risks, these findings warrant further study to understand what they mean and how to set appropriate limits on technology use."

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