Does Screen Time Cause Developmental Delays?

A pediatrician weighs in on research showing how too much screen time at the age of one could potentially cause developmental delays.

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CLEVELAND – Recent research shows too much screen time for a child at the age of one could lead to developmental delays, specifically when it comes to communication and problem-solving at the age of two and four.

“What we know about the brain, particularly in those first five years of life, is that the more areas that you can expose, the more areas that are stimulated and the more areas that are developed,” said Marie Trace, MD, behavioral pediatrician for Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

Dr. Trace was not a part of the study but notes there are five domains of early childhood development.

This study found that two of them were most noticeably impacted the longer a child spent in front of a screen.

The first one is communication, which Dr. Trace said has to do with things like speech and language.

The second one is problem-solving.

An example of that would be how a child navigates their environment to get their needs met.

As Dr. Trace explains, if a child is sitting idle on a couch watching a screen, they’re not getting the chance to explore in an active way.

“In that exploring, is where stimulation of the brain occurs and it’s where problem-solving happens,” she said. “If I am looking at a screen, there’s not a lot that’s being asked of me, right? Versus navigating my environment, playing with my toys, being outside.”

So how much screen time should be permitted?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time before 18 months, and no more than an hour a day for kids between two and five years old.

The quality of what children watch matters as well.

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