Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

How Much Is Too Much Screen Time?

June 30, 2022

We know that screen time is an enormous discussion point among parents and medical professionals for various reasons. But what if you knew that the amount of time your preschool child spends on digital screens adversely affects their brain development?  There has been a multitude of studies in recent years on the effects of screen time on children, one, in particular, caught my attention. The National Institute of Health began a study in 2018 and the early results indicate that “children who spent more than 2 hours a day on screen time activities scored lower on language and thinking tests, and some children with more than seven hours a day of screen time experienced thinning of the brain’s cortex, the area of the brain related to critical thinking and reasoning.” Now, you might be wondering what kid spends 2-7 hours per day on digital devices? Remember, that is per day, a 24-hour period. Not necessarily 2-7 consecutive hours.  90% of brain development happens before the age of 5 and since the brain is the command center for the entire body, it stands to reason that the early years are critical. Child Development Specialists have shown that young children build important cognitive connections through verbal communication with adults, daily experiences, and physical activity. The types of experiences and interactions your child has during these formative years when the brain is developing exponentially have a direct impact on your child’s educational readiness, creativity, social interactions, and overall success in life. Now, consider this: according to a 2020 Pew Research Study of 3,640 parents in the U.S, 48% of children under the age of 5 use/interact with a tablet, and 55% use/interact with a smartphone. And 50% of parents of a child 4 years old or younger watch YouTube videos on a daily basis.  Interestingly, the majority of parents polled are concerned about the content their child may be exposed to and admit that they themselves allow technology to get in the way of spending quality time with their children. As an early childhood educator, I can tell you that technology will never replace active engagement with children. Young children learn from interacting with the real world and real people around them, not being entertained by a one-dimensional world behind a screen. These are incredibly important years for brain development and for fostering a close and healthy relationship with you. I encourage you to be intentional with your young children when it comes to your time and technology.