Researchers analyzing 33 brain imaging studies spanning 23 years, involving 30,000 participants, found that screen time affects the brains of children under 12, influencing both their physical structure and functionality. This impact encompasses alterations in brain regions related to executive functions, sensory processing, memory, and interpretation of visual information.
The study, published in Early Education and Development, aimed to comprehend how digital engagement during critical developmental phases affects the brain’s plasticity, referring to its capacity to adapt and grow by forming new functions or altering existing ones.
The researchers noted changes in areas like the pre-frontal cortex, parietal lobes, temporal lobes, and occipital lobes, influencing functions like executive control, sensory processing, memory, language, and visual interpretation.
Hui Li, the corresponding author from The Education University of Hong Kong, emphasized the significance of acknowledging how digital experiences impact cognitive development in children. While some studies highlighted adverse effects on attention, cognitive abilities, and intelligence scores linked to screen time, the researchers suggested that instead of imposing strict limits, policymakers should support programs promoting positive brain development.
Li emphasized the need for innovative, friendly, and practical strategies to guide children’s digital use, urging policymakers to provide suitable guidance and backing for children’s digital engagement, rooted in empirical evidence. Lead author Dandan Wu emphasized the importance of policymakers supporting brain development in children navigating the digital era by facilitating resources and incentives for digital interventions. Ultimately, these findings aim to assist educators and caregivers in offering suitable guidance on children’s digital use.
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