Too much screen time could shape the way children learn

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Too much screen time could be changing the shape of children’s brains and impacting how well they learn.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent millions of dollars studying the brains of 45-hundred children and the first results are shocking.

Smartphones, computers, tablets, video games all are a part of our social fabric and how we communicate, work and play… but one expert says that doesn’t mean it is child’s play.

“Think what’s happening with the screen. A screen is not evil. A  screen is not a bad thing. A screen is sort of like a chainsaw. It’s a great tool, a wonderful tool. You would no more give a chainsaw to an 8-year-old than you would the man on the moon. You would give a chainsaw to someone who shows they can handle it. They can demonstrate they can handle this thing,” says Dr. David Elkins, UMMC child psychologist.

Dr. Elkins has long been concerned about how screen time is affecting our children and their ability to not only learn but also to socialize.

Now the NIH says kids who use screens for seven hours or more a day show signs that their brain cortex is thinning prematurely.

Just two hours or more every day is linked to lower scores on thinking and language tests.

“Before it was just speculation or self-report on symptoms of depression, anxiety being higher for kids who are on social media sites. and now you have actual physical evidence, which is astounding,” Dr. Elkins says.

So what should parents do? Tim Alford, head of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Middle School says parents should really be concerned with the NIH findings and be cautious of offering screens in the first place.

“One of the things we’ve been encouraging families to do is be courageous about holding out on smartphones. I think that is something families need to be mindful of,” he says. “And then the other thing is once you start to use, once you do get your child a smartphone or any device in question, being really proactive about establishing boundaries and talking thoroughly about how much this is going to be used and what are the possible pitfalls and how can we be prepared to use it really well and mindfully and then consequences for misuse.”

Where do you think it will go from here? we ask Dr. Elkins.

“I hope people pay attention to this, I hope people will, parents and caregivers will take care to monitor what their kids are doing on screens, to restrict screen time and to encourage kids to do more kid behavior-play, socialize, learn, but apart from screens,” he says.

It’s a wake-up call for every parent.

The NIH study continues.

Scientists are in the process of following more than 11-thosand kids ages from nine and 10 years old over the course of a decade.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.