Screen Time Is Literally Changing Children’s Brain

Results from a recent study show this change is at an alarming rate. According to this study we’re not exactly sure if parents should be overly concerned or if they should just chill about it.
For this present generation of preteens and teens, they seem to be fully into screen immersion from gadgets like televisions, computers, to devices like smartphones and digital pads, to even video games. This has left parents worried about the effects of “screen time”, a catchall phrase used to refer to the amount of time spent on these screen devices.

There is an ongoing $300 million research study being carried out by the National Institute of Health (NIH) – the A.B.C.D Study (for Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development) that are using MRI scans to examine changes in the brain structure of those who use smartphones and other screen devices.

There were early reports from this study reported on the CBS’s show 60 minutes. They said that the brain scans of over 4,500 children showed patterns different from the normal pattern known, these patterns depended on how much screen time they were exposed to per day. The first batch of results also reflected that children who had more than two hours daily of screen time, had lower scores in language and thinking skills.

The brain scans showed thinning of the cortex, the cortex is an outer layer of neural tissue responsible for the processing of information from the senses.
What does the NHI study actually address?

The A.B C.D. study followed 11,000 nine and ten-year-old children for a period of ten years (to adolescence), with annual magnetic resonance imaging to see if changes in the brain are linked to behavior or health, as well as find out what screen time does to the brain.

Though the first solid data is yet to be released, the Institute is hoping to release that early next year. According to the interview, researchers have found patterns in the brain scans of children who are glued to the screen for up to seven hours. As those scans showed an accelerated rate of cortex thinning.

Dr. Gaya Dowling, one of the scientists working on the study, described the process as a “maturational process” that typically happens later in development. “We don’t know if it’s being caused by the screen time,” she told Anderson Cooper on 60 minutes. “We don’t know yet if it’s a bad thing. It won’t be until we follow them over time, that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we’re seeing in this single snapshot.”

It is necessary to know that it would take a few years from now before there would be answers to questions raised by this study. However, the most interesting of results will likely come decades ahead when researchers will see the long-term use of technology on the brain.

Are screens addictive? This is one of the age-old questions that the study aims to answer. Hopefully, the study will be able to provide this answer and will also tell how much of an impact this has on them. However, a whole lot of data needs to be collected before any definitive answer can be given.

Alex Barker is a full-time Pharmacist, media company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He is also is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps busy professionals build successful side businesses.

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