Lots of Screen Time Is the Least of My Worries, Thanks!

A new study explores the impact TVs, computers, smartphones, and tablets have on kids' developing brains.
November 5, 2019, 8:07pm
screens, screen time, kids, children, brain, brains, development, language, computers, tablets, limits, limit, tv, television, movies, video games,​
Photo by Flavia Coelho via Getty Images

My mom used to say a lot of stupid things when I was a child like “Stop watching TV,” “Go outside,” and “Pokémon makes no sense.” Well, look who’s Mrs. Idiot now. I am a smart adult woman, I have a full-time job, I have a boyfriend who loves me, I’m chronically depressed, I’m absolutely crippled with anxiety, I can’t focus on a single task for more than five minutes without opening up Twitter, I have 248 unread text messages at press time, and OK, I guess, fine, maybe she had a point. My whole generation was given unprecedented access to screens, which are known to impair attention span and other cerebral faculties, and we’re also so depressed—though that probably has something to do with living under the last gasping, putrid breaths of a capitalist system that has ravaged the planet and destroyed our futures, right?


Anyway, my mom will be pleased to read this new study about screen time and kids’ brains. Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have found that young children who spend more time in front of TVs, computers, smartphones, and tablets have differences in the parts of their brains that support language and self-regulation compared to perfect little fruit leather–eating freaks who like to read books and make dolls out of apples or whatever, as The New York Times reported on Monday.

“It’s all about experience,” John S. Hutton, the director of the Reading and Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, told the Times. “Did screen time interfere with something that would have been constructive—reading, playing, talking?”

“[It’s] not so much ‘screens are bad,’ but ‘screens are not such a good idea right now,’” Hutton continued, comparing allowing children too much screen time to letting them drive a car.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, doesn’t go so far as to conclude that screen time is affecting children’s development as they get older, but plenty of recent studies have suggested this as a possible consequence. Past researchers have found that too much screen time can negatively affect everything from attention span and developmental testing performance to expressive language skills, although a study out of the U.K. earlier this month did find that screen time in moderation seems to have a positive effect on kids. What is the truth? I guess we’ll never know. Which is great news for me, a woman raised by screens of all sizes who is definitely fine, OK???!! I sometimes catch myself wondering if I should go off the grid and live at the bottom of the well because I’m FINE.

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