My Blog - Children's Medical Center

Posts for tag: brain development

A child’s brain develops most rapidly during its first five years of life. The increased use of digital devices (phones, tablets and TVs) among our youth has sparked much debate among the medical world and parents alike. While this subject has been the topic of many pediatric studies, a recent study that uses a diffusion tensor MRI takes it to a new level by examining the brain’s white matter.

White matter is made up of fibers, typically distributed into bundles called tracts, which form connections between brain cells and the rest of the nervous system. The white matter of the brain is responsible for organizing communication between the various parts of the brain's gray matter. Gray matter contains the majority of the brain cells that tell the body what to do.

Results from the MRI show that higher screen use was associated with white matter tracts that were less developed throughout the brain. Researchers are looking at how a lack in the development of these white matter tracts may slow down the brain’s processing of information.

A few ways that too much screen time can effects a child include:

  • Inability to pay attention and think clearly
  • Increase in poor eating habits
  • Increase in behavioral problems
  • Delay in language and speech development
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Impaired decision-making skills
  • Decrease in parent-child engagement

These studies are still in their infancy and researchers will continue to monitor the effects that screen time has on our youth. Some activities that researchers have seen reverse the effects and help speed up the processing capabilities of the brain include reading books, juggling or hand-eye coordination games and learning and practicing a musical instrument.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you navigate through the first five years of your child’s life:

  • No screen time for kids under the age of 18 months
  • Facetime with family members is acceptable for babies and toddlers
  • Toddlers should have no more than one hour of screen time a day
  • Parents should engage and interact with toddlers as they watch videos or use interactive touch screens
  • Children 3-5 should watch content that’s educational and teaches them new skills

If you have questions about screen time and how digital devices and are affecting your child, please call Children’s Medical Center. Our doctors are happy to help guide you and evaluate your child should you have any concerns. Call us today to set schedule an appointment.

Palm Harbor (727) 787-6335

West Chase (813) 891-6501

Trinity (727) 376-8404

Lutz (813) 751-3131

The National Institutes of Health has launched a study that will be conducted on kids ages 9-10 throughout the United States. The study is in the early phases and will last ten years, but the early results are fascinating. Although the study will take years, here are some of the results to date:

  • MRI results from 4,500 participants showed varying differences in the brains of children that use digital screens more than seven hours per day. The biggest difference being premature thinning of the cortex.
  • Kids who spend more than two hours per day on screens are already performing lower on thinking and language tests.

The study was highlighted on ‘60 Minutes’ which featured multiple doctors and researchers that are taking part. We highly encourage you to watch the full segment to see how screen time could be affecting your child’s brain. Here are few key takeaways:

  • Babies younger than 18-24 months should avoid digital use completely, other than facetime for phone calls. The first two years is one of the most crucial times for brain development in children.
  • When Toddlers are using i-pads, tablets and phones to watch videos or play games, their attention is captured for a much longer period of time than during any other type of play. The products are designed to hold their attention as long as possible. Parents should control the amount of time a child is using them, and an adult should always be present.
  • Findings are showing that the percentage of teens that say they are lonely or depressed has spiked in recent years. A test that limited college-students to just 30 minutes of social media use a day, found that they felt significant decreases in loneliness and depression. Talk to you teen about how much time they are spending on social media.
  • Scans on the brains of young adults are showing a dopamine effect when they are actively using their phones. The release of dopamine has a role in cravings and desire. This constant gratification means they are much more likely to be impulsive and stay on social media compulsively.

Technology is here to stay — it’s part of your day-to-day, but how you use it, engage with it and allow it to be a part of your young child’s life is up to you. If you have any questions about how this technology is affecting your child, please call Children’s Medical Center. Our doctors are happy to help guide you an assist in creating a media plan that works best for you and your family.