Drexel University study finds screen time for kids under 2 is harmful for sensory development

Tuesday, January 9, 2024
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Researchers from Drexel University now say any amount of screen time exposure for babies and toddlers could be harmful to their sensory development.

They're now urging parents to remove screens until after the age of 2.

"If I were to have another kid, no iPad, no screen time," said Sequilla Geddes of Southwest Philadelphia.

A new study is revealing why children under the age of 2 should avoid all screen time. Drexel University psychologist David Bennett is the study's senior author, and says their research found that kids under 2, who were exposed to television and movies, were more likely to develop sensory processing issues.

By 12 months old, the research found that children are 105% more likely to develop high sensory behaviors. By 18 months, each additional hour of screen time increased the odds by 23%. By 24 months, the odds increased by 20% for developing high sensory behaviors.

"If a child consistently doesn't like to be held, tries to escape noisy environments and it's becoming stressful for the parent as well, that might be a sign that something is going on there," said Bennett.

Doctors say to look for signs of low registration in children. They might seem a bit sluggish to environmental changes or slow to respond to their name being called.

"She would rather stay in the house and be on her iPad and I got to force her out and then she's telling people I'm forcing her outside," said Geddes.

This study also found a correlation between autism and screen time, but Bennett fell short of saying screen time is a possible cause of autism.

"We were wondering since we've been finding a relationship between early screen exposure and autism behaviors if it's possible that sensory processing might somehow be part of the puzzle."

One Philadelphia mom we spoke to says her 3-year-old son is autistic and argues that screen time has actually helped his development.

"Screen time helps him to talk. Ms. Rachel I played that all the time and that's how he learned how to sign and communicate," said Yarnelis Rodriguez of North Philadelphia.

While screen time isn't all bad, doctors say to limit and monitor exposure as much as possible.

There's still more research to be done when it comes to the connection between screen time and autism.

It's important to note here though that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under 2, unless it's short video calls with family.
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