Media use changes the brain in young children

Media use changes the brain in young children

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Why time in front of the screen can have a negative impact on children

Digital devices are often used at a young age. However, the use of such devices changes the structure of the brain in young children and has a negative impact on the attention span and language skills.

The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's recent investigation found that children often spend too much time in front of computer, cell phone and tablet screens, which negatively affects attentiveness and speech. The results were published in the English language journal "JAMA Pediatrics".

Can you still do without digital devices?

For many people, digital devices have become an indispensable part of life. Unfortunately, more and more young children are also using such devices, which can lead to negative effects for them. Young children often spend a lot more time in front of the screen of laptops, televisions and cell phones than is recommended by experts.

Educate your children about possible dangers

Parents should proactively think about their children's media usage and talk to their children about the potential dangers. Too much media usage can mean that children no longer spend enough time playing, learning, communicating or sleeping during the day, the researchers report.

Slower brain processing speed

Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and cognitive tests were performed on 47 healthy children between the ages of three and five during the study. The investigation found that skills such as brain processing speed were affected. The use of technical equipment at a young age also has a negative impact on the attention span and language skills.

Structure of the brain changed

The study found a link between increased screen-based media usage and reduced microstructural integrity of white matter tracts in the brain, which support language and developing reading skills in preschool children. The researchers found that the negative effects on children that were justified warrant further studies on the consequences of using such devices and should also look at how, for example, parents can set appropriate limits for the use of technology.

Children lose valuable time with digital devices

For example, the time in front of the screen replaces important time with the parents during which they could read stories to their children, or time to interact with other children is lost. Screen time should generally be limited for young children and adolescents, the researchers emphasize. And young children should be particularly well protected from digital devices, as they are in a critical development phase.

Children need personal interaction to achieve important developmental standards, such as language and social skills. The research team explains that they have to develop an understanding of emotions and learn patience in order to master a wide variety of personal situations in the course of their lives.

More research is needed

Time in front of digital devices and screens does not always have to have a negative impact, low doses of screen time can certainly be a good way to relax, reduce stress and socialize with friends and family members, the researchers say. Further studies in particular on the effects of media use in the early phases of brain development are now required. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • John S. Hutton, Jonathan Dudley, Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, Tom DeWitt, Scott K. Holland: Associations Between Screen-Based Media Use and Brain White Matter Integrity in Preschool-Aged Children, in JAMA Pediatrics (query: 06.11.2019), JAMA Pediatrics

Video: How Screen Time Affects Child Brain Development and Health. Connecting Point. July 17, 2018 (September 2022).


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