Screen time could alter your children’s ability to process sensations

The dangers of screen abuse in children and adolescents are known, but a new study suggests an additional risk. The time that children spend watching television or other videos before the age of two can cause atypical behaviors in their sensory processing.

The research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, notes that children who spent time in front of screens before age 2 are more likely to develop these altered behaviors before the age of 3. These may consist of “sensation seeking” (when a child seeks more intense sensory stimulation), “sensation avoidance” (more reluctant to intense sensations) and “low register” (a slower response to stimuli), and give information about the body’s ability to interpret sensory input and produce an appropriate response.

Sensory processing is the management of the information that the body receives through the senses of touch, taste, sound, sight and smell. Alterations in this process also affect the proprioceptionthe sense of body awareness, and the vestibular sense which involves movement, balance and coordination, as explained by the Child Mind Institute. Children who have sensory processing problems experience too much or too little stimulation through these senses.

The authors used data from the US National Children’s Study. which was canceled in 2014. This was a large-scale cohort study to investigate environmental influences on child health and development that was left incomplete. But before its cancellation, data had already been collected from some 5,000 children including information on screen exposure of infants and children at ages 12, 18, and 24 months. Parents and caregivers 1,471 Of those children later completed the Infant/Infant Sensory Profile, a questionnaire designed to assess their sensory processing skills.

The result indicated that, for babies under one year oldany daily exposure time to a screen was associated with a 105% more likely to show high rather than typical sensory behaviors related to low register at 33 months.

For the children of 18 monthseach additional hour of screen time per day was associated with a 23% more likely to later exhibit high sensory behaviors related to sensation avoidance and low registering at 33 months.

And among the children of 2 yearseach additional hour of screen time per day was associated with a twenty% more likely to have high sensation seeking, sensory sensitivity, and sensation avoidance within the next year, according to the study.

The researchers ruled out factors such as age, health history, frequency of physical activity and others to conclude that screen time was a significant element in the appearance of alterations in sensory processing. In any case, they assure that more research is needed before establishing a causal relationship.

Karen Heffleran ophthalmologist at Drexel University and one of the authors of the study, states that “this association could have important implications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, since atypical sensory processing is much more prevalent in these populations. Repetitive behavior, such as that seen in autism spectrum disorder, is highly correlated with atypical sensory processing. Future work could determine whether screen time in early childhood could feed the sensory brain hyperconnectivity seen in autism spectrum disordersas increased brain responses to sensory stimulation.”

The recommendation you make David Bennetta psychiatrist at Drexel University and another of the authors, is that of Avoid any screen exposure before age 2 and allow one hour a day until age 5.