Dr. Madigan, who holds the Canada Research Chair in the determinants of child development, notes that others have suggested children with developmental delays are more likely to be given screen time as a way to cope with challenging behaviours, not that screen time leads to delays. Critics claim the study doesn't take into consideration what the children were using the screens for or other factors such as sleep pattern or family income.
The study looked at various components of children's development outcomes, such as communication, motor skills, fine motor skills and problem-solving.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than one hour of screen time for kids between two and five-years-old.
While pediatricians recommend a maximum of an hour of screen time per day, some preschoolers in Alberta are spending upwards of three hours and 10 minutes in front of a screen.
"The majority of children of all ages exceed the screen time recommendations, so parents have to be more strict setting healthy limits", Goldfield said by email.
The study explored the link between screen time and early child development in 2,500 Alberta homes between 2011 and 2016.
However, the association was not bidirectional and lower scores on developmental screening tests were not correlated to higher amounts of screen time, they wrote in JAMA Pediatrics.
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The study wasn't a controlled experiment created to prove whether or how screen time early in childhood might directly impact development outcomes later in childhood. The mothers were asked to report on the amount of screen time they allowed their children and it showed that on an average the children were in front of screens for 2.4, 3.6 and 1.6 hours per day at two, three and five years of age, respectively.
Experts recommended no screen time for newborns all the way to two-year-olds, and then only one hour per day for kids older than that.
Canadian psychologists concluded, "The present study examined developmental outcomes during a critical period of growth and maturation, revealing that screen time can impinge on children's ability to develop optimally". Was too much screen time causing developmental delays?
The issue of whether screen time is bad for children has become a battlefield.
But, while the temptation to keep rowdy children quiet using TV and digital devices can be strong, parents need to focus on what's really important.
The authors urged health professionals to work with families to develop "personalised media plans" created to place boundaries on children's screen time.
The effect of screen time on children is a hotly debated topic and so far the jury has been out on how significant an impact it has. Watching with parents or caregivers, for example, can make the experience more engaging and less passive, and can even provide opportunities for learning and social development. From motor skills to social interaction to cognitive development, kids only learn these through actual human contact and physical activities, not from watching the same on YouTube. "When parents watch with their children, they can point out interesting things and contribute to language skills and learning".