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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screen time exposure for children under the age of 18 months and limiting screen time to one hour per day for children between the ages and two and five years. As digital devices become more ubiquitous, however, screen time use among children is increasing. Findings from a new study indicate that screen time exposure begins in infancy and increases as a child ages.

The study was part of the Upstate New York Infant Development Screening Program, a population-based, prospective cohort study of nearly 3,900 children between the ages of one and three years. The data were drawn from reports of children’s screen time, which included television, movie, and computer game use at 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months of age.

The authors of the study found that average screen time exposure among one-year-old infants was nearly one hour per day (53 minutes). Screen time exposure increased over time as children got older to an average of 2.5 hours per day (150 minutes) by the age of three years. Children who were in home-based childcare or were born to first-time mothers were more likely to have the highest screen time exposures by the age of eight years.

Previous research has demonstrated that children who have more screen time exposure have poor structural integrity in areas of their brains that support language and literacy skills. Other research indicates that high screen time is associated with poor academic performance, decreased physical activity, and negative social interactions in middle childhood.

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