smartphones destroyed a
Cell Phones Aren't That Dangerous Right?
screen time changes children's brains, study finds
It's not clear how the changes affect a child's development, the researchers said.
The study put 47 healthy Cincinnati-area children between 3 and 5 through magnetic resonance imaging of their brains as well as cognitive testing. While the study did not learn how screen time changed the brains, it did show that skills such as brain processing speed were affected.
Screen-based media use is prevalent and increasing in homes, childcare and school settings at ever younger ages, said Dr. John Hutton, the author of the study and director of the Reading & Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital.
These findings highlight the need to understand effects of screen time on the brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain development in early childhood, so that providers, policymakers and parents can set healthy limits, he said.
A new study found that too much screen time can change a child's brain.
The Cincinnati Childrens study was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics and follows a string of studies released this year on the effects of screen time on the youngest humans.
A Canadian study published in April found that screen time can affect attention spans in preschoolers. A March study found that mobile phone use can delay expressive language in 18-month-olds. Another JAMA Pediatrics study in April found that screen time can affect how a child performs on developmental testing.
The Cincinnati Childrens study assessed screen time using the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy suggests, for example, that children younger than 18 months should avoid all screen media other than video chatting. Parents should monitor digital media and watch it with their children.
For children between 2 to 5, the AAP recommends limiting screen time to an hour a day. Parents should designate media-free times, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
The children in the Cincinnati study completed standard cognitive tests and a special test called diffusion tensor MRI, which estimates white matter integrity in the brain.
A study at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center shows that young children who use screen media more than the recommended amounts have changes in the white matter of the brain, which affects language and self-regulation. This brain image shows white matter tracts with lower structural integrity associated with more screen time in these children. Affected areas are in blue.
Researchers gave the parents in the study a 15-item screening tool based on the AAP's media recommendations. Those scores were matched to the cognitive test scores and the MRI measures, controlling for age, gender and household income.
Higher scores on the screening tool were significantly associated with lower expressive language, the ability to rapidly name objects or processing speed and early reading skills, the study found.
In addition, higher scores also were associated with lower brain white matter integrity, which affects organization, and myelination the process of forming a myelin sheath around a nerve to allow impulses to move more quickly, in tracts involving language executive function and other literacy skills.
Hutton said, While we cant yet determine whether screen time causes these structural changes or implies long-term neurodevelopmental risks, these findings warrant further study to understand what they mean and how to set appropriate limits on technology use.
Hutton said his team has several follow-up papers in the works including a study showing the beneficial links between home reading practices and brain development in preschool-age children. The work builds on five other studies Huttons team has published since 2015 to link home reading to brain development before kindergarten.
Hutton said he wants to do a bigger study starting in infancy, but that will depend on getting the funding for the research.
The Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation funded the study with a Procter Scholar Award.
Maneuvering through traffic while talking on the phone increases the likelihood of an accident five-fold and is actually more dangerous than driving drunk, U.S. researchers report.
That finding held true whether the driver was holding a cell phone or using a hands-free device, the researchers noted.
"As a society, we have agreed on not tolerating the risk associated with drunk driving," said researcher Frank Drews, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah. "This study shows us that somebody who is conversing on a cell phone is exposing him or herself and others to a similar risk -- cell phones actually are a higher risk," he said.
His team's report appears in the summer issue of the journal Human Factors.
In the study, 40 people followed a pace car along a prescribed course, using a driving simulator. Some people drove while talking on a cell phone, others navigated while drunk (meaning their blood-alcohol limit matched the legal limit of 0.08 percent), and others drove with no such distractions or impairments.
"We found an increased accident rate when people were conversing on the cell phone," Drews said. Drivers on cell phones were 5.36 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers, the researchers found.
The phone users fared even worse than the inebriated, the Utah team found. There were three accidents among those talking on cell phones -- all of them involving a rear-ending of the pace car. In contrast, there were no accidents recorded among participants who were drunk, or the sober, cell-phone-free group.
The bottom line: Cell-phone use was linked to "a significant increase in the accident rate," Drews said.
He said there was a difference between the behaviors of drunk drivers and those who were talking on the phone. Drunk drivers tended to be aggressive, while those talking on the phone were more sluggish, Drews said.
In addition, the researchers found talking on the cell phone reduce reaction time by 9 percent in terms of braking and 19 percent in terms of picking up speed after braking. "This is significant, because it has an impact on traffic as a system," Drews said. "If we have drivers who are taking a lot of time in accelerating once having slowed down, the overall flow of traffic is dramatically reduced," he said.
In response to safety concerns, some states have outlawed the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. But that type of legislation may not be effective, because the Utah researchers found no difference in driver performance whether the driver was holding the phone or talking on a hands-free model.
"We have seen again and again that there is no difference between hands-free and hand-held devices," Drews said. "The problem is the conversation," he added.
According to Drews, drivers talking on the phone are paying attention to the conversation -- not their driving. "Drivers are not perceiving the driving environment," he said. "We found 50 percent of the visual information wasn't processed at all -- this could be a red light. This increases the risk of getting into an accident dramatically," he said.
The reason that there aren't more accidents linked to cell phone use is probably due to the reactions of other -- more alert -- drivers, Drews said. "Currently, our system seems to be able to handle 8 percent of cell-phone drivers, because other drivers are paying attention," he said. "They are compensating for the errors these drivers are causing," he speculated.
This is a growing public health problem, Drews said. As more people are talking and driving, the accident rate will go up, he said.
One expert agreed that driving and cell phone use can be a deadly mix.
"We don't believe talking on a cell phone while driving is safe," said Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "It is a level of distraction that can affect your driving performance," he said.
NHTSA has just completed a study that showed that 75 percent of all traffic accidents were preceded by some type of driver distraction, Tyson said.
Tyson pointed out that talking on the phone is very different than talking to the person in the passenger seat. "If you are engaged in a conversation with a passenger, the passenger has some situational awareness, whereas a person on the phone has no idea what you are dealing with on the road," he said.
"Our recommendation is that you should not talk on the phone while driving, whether it's a hand-held or hand-free device," Tyson said. "We realize that a lot of people believe that they can multi-task, and in a lot of situations they probably can, but it's that moment when you need your full attention, and it's not there because you are busy talking, that you increase the likelihood that you are going to be involved in a crash," he said.
Tyson also sees this as a growing public health issue. "Every time we do a survey, there are more people using cell phones while driving," he said. "And the popularity of hand-held devices like Palm Pilots or Blackberries, and people using them in the car, is another problem," he added.
An industry spokesman said cell phones don't cause accidents, people do.
"If cell phones were truly the culprit some studies make them out to be, it's only logical that we'd see a huge spike in the number of accidents [since their introduction]," said John Walls, a vice president at the industry group, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association-The Wireless Association. "To the contrary, we've experienced a decline in accidents, and an even more impressive decline in the accident rate per million miles driven," he said.
"We believe educating drivers on how
to best handle all of the possible distractions when you're
behind the wheel is the most effective means to make better
drivers, and that legislation focusing on a specific
behavior falls short of that well-intended goal and creates
a false sense of security," Walls said.
Who Talk to Themselves Arent Crazy, Theyre
Theres nothing quite like catching weird glances in the halls at work or in the checkout line at the grocery store and realizing that you were talking out loud to yourself in public. Its enough to make you feel a little batty, but if this has ever happened to you good news!
Youre a genius.
I mean, this should be a no-brainer, right? After all, some of the smartest people in history talk to themselves: poets, writers, philosophers, every one! Even Einstein used to repeat his sentences to himself softly.
But now, we have proof. Proof, I say!
A study printed in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology claims that talking to yourself makes your brain work more efficiently. Authors Daniel Swingley and Gary Lupyan hypothesized that talking to yourself could actually be beneficial. Their first trial, in which they gave subjects an object to buy at the grocery store, seemed to prove their point. The people who were allowed to say the name of the item aloud were much more likely to find it than the ones bound to silence.
It turns out that talking out loud might not always be helpful, though.
Speaking to yourself isnt always helping if you dont really know what an object looks like, saying its name can have no effect, or actually slow you down. If, on the other hand, you know that bananas are yellow and have a particular shape, by saying banana youre activating these visual properties in the brain to help you find them.
Basically, if you know what an object looks like the banana, for instance then saying the word will help you find what youre looking for. But, if youve never seen a rutabaga, saying it out loud isnt going to be of any assistance at all.
Not that youd ever actually want to find a rutabaga, but in case you do, heres a picture.
It can be helpful for the indecisive scatterbrains among us.
Talking through things aloud can help organize your thoughts, as well as validate difficult decisions, according to psychologist Linda Sapadin
It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to whats important, and firm up any decisions youre contemplating.
I mean, basically, its best to talk the big decisions out even if its just with yourself.
Talking to yourself about your goals also helps you attain them.
It turns out saying your goals aloud is even better for achieving them than making a written list, which can seem daunting. As Sapadin says,
Saying your goals out loud focuses your attention, reinforces the message, controls your runaway emotions, and screens out distractions.
Its exactly what we
crazies who talk to ourselves have always known
were smart, and we give great advice. Why not
listen to it, out loud and wherever you want!
The number of
nearsighted kids is soaring and screen time isn't the
Sure, she wore prescription lenses herself, but she didnt start until she was well into adulthood. To her greater surprise, three of Welchs seven other children also have needed glasses. Today, the four oldest of the eight children in her blended family must wear glasses for up-close work.
The likely reason, according to her doctor: devices, both at home and at school.
Now, the mother closely monitors the younger four childrens screen time and tries to ensure that the older four wear glasses when reading.
Im definitely paying more attention to it, Welch said.
So are eye specialists. The Welch family represents a trend they have been watching with some alarm for the past decade: a steep increase in the number of children who need corrective lenses.
Screens are an easy culprit, but experts suspect that is only part of the explanation. Exposure to sunlight may play a role. More time spent outdoors appears to ward off the need for glasses. Increased awareness among parents to have their childrens eyes screened combined with simple genetics also factor into the equation.
But pinning down exactly why continues to vex the field.
Thats kind of the million-dollar question now, said Dr. Katherine Schuetz, a pediatric optometrist with Little Eyes in Indiana. In our profession, were trying to figure out why and fix it.
Vision troubles are a rising concern
When Gen Xers were young in the '70s, about 20% of children in the United States needed glasses. Now that number has inched closer to 40%, said Dr. David Epley, a clinical spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Other estimates say the percentage of young people with myopia or nearsightedness is even greater, more than 45%, said Dr. April Jones, a pediatric optometrist with Riley Childrens Health. By 2050, estimates suggest that as much as a quarter of the world may be nearsighted.
Just two decades ago when Schuetz started in practice, she saw far fewer young patients who required lenses than she sees today. The biggest increase she is seeing comes in children ages 4 to 12.
Nor is the issue just that children with poor vision are showing up younger and younger. Once their eyesight requires corrective lenses, its deteriorating faster and faster.
Dr. Katherine Schuetz preforms an eye examine on David Young at Little Eyes in Carmel, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.
We do know that genetics play a role, but more and more environment and lifestyle are having a bigger impact than in the past, Jones said.
Across the globe, researchers note that children in certain countries are more likely to wear glasses than in others. In many parts of Asia, for instance, as many as 90% of children have myopia, one 2012 study found. By contrast, other countries such as Australia boast a lower percentage of children with myopia than in the U.S.
What might be contributing to the problem?
Genetics alone cannot explain such differences. So specialists suggest its a combination of factors, starting with screen use.
Theres probably a partial truth in there, said Epley, a pediatric ophthalmologist in Kirkland, Washington, of the tendency to blame screens.
Exposure to sunshine, however, may be just as important if not more, experts are beginning to believe. Again, its not clear exactly why, but natural sunlight appears to stabilize vision regardless of whether a person uses screens.
In addition, when a child is outside playing, that is time he or she is not bent over a screen, making outdoor time even more important, the experts say.
Studies suggest that exposing the eye to a spectrum of light may prevent the development and progression of myopia, but yet again, its unclear why, Epley said.
Skeptics may note that children have been reading books for centuries and that has not had as great an impact, but screens are not exactly equivalent.
In general close work, whether staring at a screen or a book, strains eyes. When a person reads, however, he or she tends to hold the book farther away than a phone or tablet, perhaps because books are bigger.
Holding objects close to the eye flexes muscles in the eye that may wind up telling the body to grow the eyeball, Jones said. While the eyeball naturally lengthens over time and a certain amount of growth each year is expected, screen use may speed up the process, resulting in myopia.
Eventually, a person may develop high myopia, which in addition to requiring him or her to wear corrective lenses raises the risk later in life of complications such as retinal detachment, premature cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Treatments to address nearsightedness
New treatments exist to try to slow the progression of myopia and spare children later in life.
One therapy known as orthokeratology, or Ortho-k, can at least temporarily eradicate the need for glasses. Each night the child puts in special hard contact lenses that reshape the eyeball as he or she sleeps.
Some specialists prefer using eye drops of atropine, a medicine originally used as a nervous system blocker to treat heart rhythm problems. These drops slow the progression of myopia without risking infection as a hard contact lens may, Epley said.
For Reid McKay, however, Ortho-k has been a game changer.
Every night for the past three years, the fourth grader has worn the hard lenses. During the day, he no longer needs glasses.
The 9-year-old was prescribed corrective lenses in kindergarten after complaining about headaches. His mother, Kelly McKay, attributes his condition to genetics, not screens, as both she and her husband both have what she calls horrible eyesight.
About a year after Reid first started wearing glasses, his optometrist recommended he try the hard lenses to slow down the progression of his nearsightedness. At first, Reid struggled, but now hes a pro.
"Its just perfect vision every day now for him, his mother said.