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Increased screen time linked to atypical sensory behaviors


This is new research we all need to be aware of… I have summarized here but click on the link to the Journal of the American Medical Association for the full study. 




  • Drexel University

  • Lead Researcher: Karen Heffler

Number and Ages of Participants:

  • Nearly 1,500 children

  • Ages: 12, 18, and 24 months


  • Analysis of caregiver surveys on children's sensory preferences and behaviors

  • Assessment of the association between early-life screen time and sensory processing outcomes in toddlers


  • Increased screen time linked to atypical sensory behaviors in toddlers by 33 months

  • Types of sensory processing issues varied with age of screen exposure

  • Emphasis on the importance of play and social engagement over screen time for child development

More detail

A study by Drexel University, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that increased screen time in children under 2 can lead to atypical sensory behaviors in toddlerhood. This includes behaviors like sensation seeking, sensation avoiding, and low registration (slow response to stimuli). The study involved analyzing caregiver surveys about their child's sensory preferences and behaviors.

The research showed that children exposed to more TV by age 2 were more likely to develop these atypical behaviors by 33 months. The likelihood of exhibiting high sensory behaviors at 33 months was 105% higher for children with any screen exposure at 12 months compared to none. Each additional hour of screen time at 18 months increased the odds of atypical behaviors by 23%, and at 24 months, the risk increased by 20%.

The types of atypical sensory processing varied with the age of screen exposure. Exposure at 12 months was linked to low registration behaviors, while exposure at 18 and 24 months was linked to both low registration and sensation avoidance, as well as sensory sensitivity and sensation seeking.

The study encourages parents to focus on play, social engagement, and exploration of the world for their children, highlighting the difference between these activities and screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for babies under 18 months, except for video chatting, and up to 1 hour a day of high-quality educational programming for children by age 2. They emphasize the importance of playtime, hands-on learning, and physical activity for children's development.


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