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New study shows too much screen time negatively impacts children's brains

Posted at 11:16 AM, Dec 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 13:08:06-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's a question many parents face: how much screen time is too much for kids to spend on their favorite device?

Whether it's a smartphone, tablet, computer or TV, all of that screen time adds up.

A new study is showing screen time can impact children's brains and how they're doing in school.

The National Institutes of Healthconducted $300 million in research and is in the process of following more than 11,000 9- and 10-year-olds over a decade. 

The research found that the brain cortex is thinning prematurely in 9- and 10-year-olds who had at least seven hours of screen time a day. That part of the brain processes information. 

It also showed they're at risk of declining memory function, perception skills and cognitive abilities. 

Trent Myers, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Truman Medical Center, said lack of communication skills, physical activity and mental health can also have an impact. 

"The brain strengthens those connections that are involved in what we're doing most of the day so there's good parts and bad parts of that — because whenever we strengthen connections, other connections are weakened or lost," Myers said. "When a kid is playing video games all the time, sitting in front of a screen all the time, that's getting easier and easier for them but you're also losing other things, other skills that you might otherwise have."

Myers recommended making a conscious effort to limit children's time on the screen. 

"I think we just have to continually monitor what are the reasons that we are putting the screen in front of the child," Myers said. "Is it for their education? Is it for their growth and development? Or is it for me so I can have a little bit of free time?"

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no screen time for children between the ages of 18 months and 2 years, except video chatting.

Limiting screen time to one hour a day is suggested for children between the ages of 2 and 5.