Much time spent watching TV and playing computer games may contain the development of young children, suggests a new research.
A study of 2,400 Canadian children found that longer screen time was linked to lower scores on communication tests, problem solving, interpersonal skills, and physical coordination.
The amount of time that two- and three-year-olds spent watching the screen had a negative effect on their performance at three and five.
There was no evidence that children with developmental problems could have more screen time from their parents to control challenging behaviors.
Writing in the journal Jama Pediatrics, the team of Canadian psychologists concluded, "The present study examined developmental outcomes during a critical period of growth and maturation, revealing that screen time may affect children's ability to develop optimally . "
The effect of screen time on children is a much debated topic and so far the jury has discussed the significant impact it has.
When they arrive at school, a quarter of the children show some degree of poor or delayed development in terms of language, communication, motor skills and "social-emotional health," according to a team led by Sheri Madigan of the University of Calgary.
To investigate the possible link between screen time and developmental delays, the scientists used a standard screening measure that involved questioning parents about their children's abilities.
Higher levels of screen time at the age of two and three years were "significantly associated" with the poorer test results at three and five years.
The opposite association – worse development progress leading to more screen time – was not observed.
The researchers pointed out that child development "unfolds rapidly in the first five years of life."
"When young children are watching the screens, they may be missing important opportunities to practice and master interpersonal, motor, and communication skills," they said.
The study found that children watched the screens for an average of 17.09 hours per week at two years of age, 24.99 at three years of age and 10.85 at five years of age.
The authors urged health professionals to work with families to develop "personalized media plans" designed to impose limits on children's screen time.