You likely already know that blue light from screens before bedtime can harm kids’ sleep. That’s because it delays the release of melatonin and resets the body’s internal clock. A new study in the November issue of JAMA Pediatrics says it also may affect brain development.
In the study, preschoolers ages 3 to 5 whose screen usage was greater than what’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) completed cognitive testing and brain imaging. Their parents also completed a survey about screen usage. The results revealed that kids with higher screen usage had lower measures of brain structure that support skills such as language and literacy.
While the study was small in scale, it’s still a wakeup call that too much blue light and screen time may affect kids on levels that haven’t yet been fully researched. If you suspect your kid spends too much time staring at a screen, here’s what the AAP recommends:
- Set a curfew. Keep kids off screens for one hour before bedtime, and don’t let them take smartphones to bed. Looking at a screen at night makes it much harder to fall asleep.
- Create a central charging station away from bedrooms. Everyone (yes, even you!) has to plug in there at night.
- Plan media-free times for all ages. No screens while doing homework, eating a meal or during family time.
- Monitor preschool kids’ usage. Toddlers ages 2 to 5 should spend no more than one hour on screens per day. Instead, do something fun and interactive together. Hands-on, unstructured play helps kids’ brains and social skills develop.