Do you put your toddler in front of the TV?

Put your toddler in front of the TV? You could harm their ability to process the world around them, new data suggests.

Babies and young children are affected by exposure to television or videos and may show more abnormal sensory behavior, such as lack of attention and concentration in activities, or seeking more intense stimulation in the environment. They may even be shocked by loud sounds or bright lights, according to data from Drexel School of Medicine researchers published today in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

According to the researchers, children exposed to more television viewing by age two were more likely to develop atypical sensory processing behaviors, such as "sensation seeking"And"evasion of sensations", as well as "under registration": be less sensitive or slower, respond to stimuli, such as being called by name, at 33 months.

Sensory processing skills reflect the body's ability to respond effectively and appropriately to the information and stimuli that its sensory system receives, such as what the child hears, sees, touches, and tastes. The team obtained data on television or video viewing by infants and toddlers aged 12, 18, and 24 months during the period 2011-2014 from the National Children's Survey, which included 1.471 children (50% boys) in the whole country.

Sensory processing outcomes were assessed at 33 months using the Infant/Toddler Sensory Profile (ITSP), a questionnaire completed by parents/caregivers that provides information about how children process what they see, hear, smell, etc.

The ITSP subscales examine children's patterns of low registration and sensation seeking, such as excessive touching or smelling of objects; sensory sensitivities, such as excessive anxiety or discomfort from light and noise; and sensory avoidance: They actively try to control their environment to avoid things like brushing their teeth.

The children were divided into "typical", "high" and "low" groups based on the frequency with which they exhibited different sensory behaviors. Results are considered “typical” if they are within one standard deviation of the average ITSP norm.

Measures of screen exposure at 12 months of age were based on caregivers' responses to the question: "Does your child watch television and/or video?" (yes/no)" and at 18 and 24 months to the question: "On average, how many hours a day did your child watch television and/or video during the last 30 days?""

little boy

The results show that putting your toddler in front of the TV:

  • After 12 months, any screen exposure compared to no screen exposure was associated with a 105% greater likelihood of exhibiting "high" sensory behaviors compared to "typical" sensory behaviors related to a low register at 33 months.
  • After 18 months, each additional hour of daily screen use was associated with a 23% increase in the likelihood of engaging in “high” sensory behaviors associated with subsequent sensory avoidance and low registration.
  • After 24 months, each hour of daily screen exposure was associated with a 20% increase in the odds of sensation seeking, sensory sensitivity, and sensory avoidance after 33 months.

The researchers took into account age, whether the child was born prematurely, the caregiver's educational level, race/ethnicity, and other factors such as how often the child played or walked with the caregiver.

These findings add to a growing list of health and developmental problems associated with the timing of screening in infants and toddlers, including language delays, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral problems, sleep difficulties, attention problems and delays in solving problems.

"This association may have important implications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism."said lead author Karen Heffler, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Drexel School of Medicine.

"Repetitive behaviors, such as those seen in autism spectrum disorders, are closely related to atypical sensory processing. Future work could determine whether early-life detection can stimulate the brain's sensory hyperconnectivity seen in autism spectrum disorder, for example by increasing the brain's responses to sensory stimulation.".

Atypical sensory processing in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and ADHD manifests in a variety of disruptive behaviors. In children with ASD, increased sensory seeking or avoidance, increased sensory sensitivity, and poor recognition ability are associated with irritability, hyperactivity, difficulty eating and sleeping, and other social problems. In children with ADHD, atypical sensory processing is associated with executive function problems, anxiety, and reduced quality of life.

"Given this link between increased screen time and a growing list of developmental and behavioral problems, it may be beneficial for young children with these symptoms to undergo a period of reduced screen time, along with sensory processing practices taught by occupational therapists"Heffler said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend that children younger than 18 to 24 months spend time in front of a screen. The AAP believes that live video chat is a good thing because the interaction that takes place can be beneficial. The AAP recommends limiting digital media use for children ages 2 to 5 to no more than 1 hour per day.

"Parent training and education are key to minimizing, or hopefully even avoiding, screen time for children under two years old."said senior author David Bennett, PhD, professor of Psychiatry at Drexel School of Medicine.

Despite the evidence, many young children are more likely to watch screens. In the United States, children ages 2 and younger spent an average of 3 hours and 3 minutes a day in front of a screen in 2014, up from 1 hour and 19 minutes a day in 1997, according to a JAMA Pediatrics study.

According to a July 2015 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Behavior, Some parents cite fatigue and the inability to find affordable alternatives as reasons for screen time.

Although this article focuses solely on television or video viewing and not media viewed on smartphones or tablets, provides some of the first evidence for early exposure to digital media with subsequent atypical sensory processing in the form of many behaviors.

The authors say future research is needed to better understand the mechanisms linking the timing of early detection and atypical sensory processing.

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