Key Research

Outdoor Play as a Mitigating Factor in the Association Between Screen Time for Young Children and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes

Key Takeaways:

  • Higher screen time at age 2 years was directly associated with poorer communication and daily living skills at age 4; however, frequency of outdoor play at age 2 years 8 months alleviated those findings
  • This suggests that outdoor play decreases the effects of high screen time on brain development at a young age
  • Frequent outdoor play may mitigate the connection between higher screen time and suboptimal neurodevelopment, implying potential for intervention.
  • Future research should specify the nature of the intervention measures, enabling better results and reducing the risk from screen time.

 

LiveMore ScreenLess’ Summary

We have seen in other studies that screen time affects brain patterns and development. Here the goal is to investigate whether higher screen time at age 2 years is associated with developmental outcomes at age 4 years; and whether this association is mediated by frequency of outdoor play at age 2 years 8 months.

Parents were asked to complete records of children’s screen time. Screen time refers to the amount of time spent watching or using screen devices, such as televisions, video game systems, tablets, and smartphones. Screen time longer than 1 hour a day at age 2 years was coded as higher screen time. These children were then compared to standardized scores for communication, daily living skills, and socialization when they reached age 4 years. The mediating factor that was also measured was the frequency of outdoor play at age 2 years 8 months; with 6 or 7 days per week coded as frequent outdoor play.

This study shows that a higher screen time (>1 hour a day) at age 2 years was associated with poorer neurodevelopmental outcomes at age 4 years. Major findings include: 

  1. screen time at age 2 years was associated with communication and daily living skills; 
  2. the frequency of outdoor play did not mediate the association for communication, but it did mediate the association for daily living skills 
  3. screen time at age 2 years was not significantly associated with socialization, but frequent outdoor play was. 

Based on these findings, updating guidelines regarding media use is extremely important for parents, educators, researchers, and the children themselves.

Sugiyama M, Tsuchiya KJ, Okubo Y, et al. Outdoor Play as a Mitigating Factor in the Association Between Screen Time for Young Children and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes. JAMA Pediatr. Published online January 23, 2023. 

Topics: Cognitive Development , Infancy & Early Childhood , Nature , Psychological Wellbeing , Screen Time

Year: 2023

Participants: 885 children born between December 2007 and March 2012 

Data Collection: children followed up with from 1 year 6 months to 4 years; analysis was conducted from April 2021 to June 2022