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The Hood Magazine

Harmful Effects of Screen Time

Jan 22, 2015 12:14PM ● By Hood Magazine
By Emily Theisen, OTS, Paul Graumann, MS CCC-SLP, Julie Klusmann, OTR/L, Accelerate Center for Intensive Early Intervention 


Screen time refers to any time spent viewing, or interacting with media presented on a screen. This includes television, movies, computer, tablet, smart phones, iPods or iPads. This also includes educational media and passive screen use, such as having TV on in the background during other activities. Screen time can interfere with normal patterns of brain development because of several different reasons:


1.    Lacks hands-on multisensory components critical for learning.

2.    Can hinder frontal lobe development affecting ability to moderate social behavior.

3.    Causes a dopamine (high) response that can be addictive.

4.    The cerebellum becomes inactive during screen viewing.

5.    Lacks critical face-to-face interaction that is crucial to development of functional language and social skills.


Other areas of development that can be affected include:

  • Sleep: Correlating directly with increased sleep problems including nightmares, waking and later sleep onset.
  • Social Skills: Interfering with normal play and interaction: exposure during the toddler years has been linked to decreased empathy and increased peer rejection in adolescence.
  • Motor Skills: Often, a child is sedentary during screen time so very little muscle strength or coordination develops during that time.
  • Cognition and Learning Skills: Early screen exposure leads to increased impulsivity and tantrums, decreased attention span,  learning behaviors and overall cognition.
  • Language: Young children with heavy media use are at risk for delays in language development once they start school.  Screen exposure in infancy correlates with language delays by 14 months of age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 do NOT view screen media. Those between the ages of 2 and 18 should spend no more than 1-2 hours engaged in screen time each day.  (Strasburger et al., 2013)


Additional suggestions include:

  • Keep TV and Internet devices out of your child's bedroom.
  • Establish a family use plan for all media. Enforce meal and bed time “curfew” for media devices including cell phones. 
  • Establish reasonable, but firm rules about cell phones, texting, Internet and social media use.