The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
If you have young children, you’re likely worried about how much time they spend staring at a screen, be it a tablet, phone, computer, or television. You probably also want to know how screen time affects your child’s development and wonder whether there’s anything you can do to balance out any negative effects. New research from Japan indicates that more screen time at age two is associated with poorer communication and daily living skills at age 4, but when kids also play outdoors, some of the negative effects of screen time are reduced.
In the study, which will be published in March in JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers followed 885 children from 18 months to four years of age. They looked at the relationship between three key features: the average amount of screen time per day at age two, the amount of outdoor play at age two years eight months, and neurodevelopmental outcomes—specifically, communication, daily living skills, and socialization scores according to a standardized assessment tool called Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale-II—at age four.
“Although both communication and daily living skills were worse in 4-year-old children who had had more screen time at aged 2, outdoor play time had very different effects on these two neurodevelopmental outcomes,” explains Kenji J. Tsuchiya, Professor at Osaka University and lead author of the study. “We were surprised to find that outdoor play didn’t really alter the negative effects of screen time on communication—but it did have an effect on daily living skills.”
Specifically, almost one-fifth of the effects of screen time on daily living skills were mediated by outdoor play, meaning that increasing outdoor play time could reduce the negative effects of screen time on daily living skills by almost 20%. The researchers also found that, although it was not linked to screen time, socialization was better in 4-year-olds who had spent more time playing outside at two years eight months of age.