One doesn’t need to take recourse to clinical studies to understand that the world has become increasingly technical. This implies that every single individual today is well-acquainted with modern technology to the extent that their very survival depends on it. While one can obviously state the many advantages that such proximity begets, one also needs to be aware of the problems that could surface. With more and more children being exposed to digital devices, it might not be a good idea if parents started exposing infants to phones. Sure- it would be a good call to impart knowledge about the latest technology to the future generation- but there is a correct time and place for it.
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There Is A Direct Correlation Between Exposing Infants To Phones And Their Cognitive Development- And The Results Aren’t Pleasant
Interestingly, a recent longitudinal cohort study that took place in Singapore made the claim that spending excessive screen time during infancy can lead to several detrimental characteristic features and cognitive functions- which readily become apparent when the infant turns 8 years old. The team, rather than chalking this up to a rumor, actually looked at the data that was provided by 506 children who had enrolled in the Growing Up in Singapore towards Healthy Outcomes cohort study since their birth. When the kids were around 12 months of age, their parents were tasked with the duty of reporting the average amount of time they were exposing infants to phones on weekends and weekdays every week.
The data was then divided into four separate groups based on the amount of time that was spent- less than an hour, a couple of hours, two to four hours, and more than that. The brain activity of the child was also mapped through electroencephalography- which is a highly technical tool used in tracking brain activities. Children were also asked to partake in several cognitive tests that would measure their executive functioning, as well as their attention span.
Firstly, the team perused the association between EEG brain activity and the time spent exposing infants to phones. The EEG readings started the researchers by revealing that infants who had been exposed to longer screen times had waves of low frequency- which were actually a sign of a lack of cognitive alertness. In order to see if this phenomenon was parallel across all the other groups, the research team kept analyzing this particular data for the other children. It was found that with the increase in screen time, brain activity kept getting altered to a far greater degree- which also led to more cognitive deficits. Children who were diagnosed with deficits in executive function would have problems controlling their emotions, keeping an attention span, and being persistent in a task- all the traits that are required to be successful in the future.
A Country Can Only Grow Through Human Capital- Which Makes Monitoring Screen Time A Necessity
It can be understood that the research was geared towards understanding how excessing screen time was one of the many, albeit major, factors that interfered with the development of the executive function. Earlier research had also posited that infants had trouble when they were processing bits of information on a 2D screen. Exposing infants to phones also implies bombarding the poor child’s brain with a stream of fast-paced movements, scene changes, and blinking lights, the brain gets overwhelmed and is quite incapable of leaving resources that would allow it to mature with time.
In a media release, Professor Chong Yap Seng, the Dean of NUS Medicine and Chief Clinical Officer of SICS stated that the findings from this study were vital enough to not get snubbed. As it stands, the findings could have a massive impact on the development of human capital, as well as future generations. The success of this study, as well as the ensuing hypothesis, would allow one to have a far better understanding of how the environment around us can dictate the growth and development of a child. Needless to say, this would help the citizens of Singapore in vying for a better life for their kids.
The reason for such a study becomes even more important when we understand that in a country like Singapore, life is extremely fast-paced and ruthlessly cutthroat. According to Professor Michael Meaney, the Program Director of the Translational Neuroscience Program at SICS, it is of immense necessity to study and understand how and how far exposure to screen time affects a child- when parents are working long hours to maintain a livelihood. This leads Dr. Evelyn Law, the lead author of the study, to add that this research has put forth certain compelling pieces of evidence that the screen time of children needs to be monitored closely- especially in the early stages of their life.