Screen Time Study Shows Differences in Kids' Brains

Jim Liebelt

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on U.S. News & World Report.

Some children who spent more time on smartphones and other devices exhibited a different brain pattern than kids with less screen time, according to the first data from a major ongoing study by the National Institutes of Health.

The findings, which aired Sunday evening on CBS' "60 Minutes," reveal that in some cases, 9- and 10-year-old kids who spent more than seven hours a day using devices like smartphones, tablets, and video games showed signs of premature thinning of the cortex, the outer layer of the brain that processes sensory information.

"We don't know if it's being caused by the screen time. We don't know yet if it's a bad thing," Dr. Gaya Dowling of the NIH said on "60 Minutes." "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."

Kids who spent more than two hours a day on such devices also scored worse on language and thinking tests, the NIH data show.

The initial findings come from brain scans of 4,500 9- and 10-year-olds, according to "60 Minutes." Researchers will follow a total of 11,000 children during the $300 million longitudinal study on adolescent brain development, and Dowling said it will be years before they understand the true impact of screen time on kids' brains.

"In many ways, the concern that investigators like I have is that we're sort of in the midst of a natural kind of uncontrolled experiment on the next generation of children," Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who helped develop the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines on screen time, told "60 Minutes."

Source: U.S. News & World Report