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AZ Child Advocates Warn Parents to Limit Toddlers' Screen Time

New research shows young children who spend time interacting with a parent or grandparent develop better life skills that those who just watch TV or digital devices. (ChrystalMarieSing/Twenty20)
New research shows young children who spend time interacting with a parent or grandparent develop better life skills that those who just watch TV or digital devices. (ChrystalMarieSing/Twenty20)
February 26, 2019

PHOENIX — Child-development experts say allowing your toddler or preschooler too much time in front of the TV or digital devices can delay their development of critical life skills.

Recent research published in the Pediatrics Journal of the American Medical Association recommended children 2-3 years old be limited to about an hour or two of daily viewing time. The study found many parents were allowing their children up to three-times that amount.

Michelle Katona is chief program officer with the Arizona children's advocacy program First Things First. She said in the early years, too much time with technology as opposed to one-on-one interactions can limit a child's growth.

"Screen overuse puts young children at risk of behavior problems, sleep deprivation, delays in social emotional development and obesity,” Katona said. “And so extended time on screens diminishes time spent on essential early-learning experiences."

Katona said the study showed 2-year-olds with higher amounts of screen time often scored lower on screening tests for communication, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, and social skills.

She said a young child's interactions with parents or other caretakers can be critical.

"The best learning app is a lap,” Katona said. “And that means that parents, grandparents and teachers in quality early-learning settings are best positioned to prepare our young kids for school through talking, reading, singing and playing with their child."

Katona said the study adds to mounting evidence that limiting a young child's screen time leads to better cognitive, physical and psychological development.

"Children learn best through exploratory, creative play and relationships with caring adults,” she said. “Relationships not only allow for supporting the safety and nurturing of a child, but it's also about relational learning, and you can't get that through a screen."

First Things First is funded in Arizona by a voter-enacted tax on tobacco products. The program invests funds across the state in programs that prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond. For more information, visit firstthingsfirst.org.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ