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Got Fussy Kids? Reduce Their Screen Time

computer addiction
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lately, it seems as if screen time has been the evil behind just about everything ailing our kids—from obesity to poor sleep and even bad eyesight. Well, you can add another item to that list: irritability and fussiness.

A new study from Boston Medical Center found that toddlers who spend the most time in front of screens are the most irritable. While parents often put children in front of the TV to calm them, researchers discovered that screen time is actually producing the opposite effect. "One of the major developmental tasks of children is to learn how to keep still and focus, how to deal with the various stressors and stimuli they encounter," says Dr. Jenny Radesky, the study's lead author. But they can't learn how to do those things if they are constantly placed in front of a screen to calm down.

What's more, toddlers who were regularly difficult or irritable were 40 percent more likely to develop "problematic media habits" by the age of 2.

It's been proven that toddlers need to be active, engaging with others and using their motor skills. If they don't, they are slower to develop language skills, for instance. Also, kids who do engage in active play, rather than passive screen time, are also happier, according to a study at Oxford University that was reported in The Daily Mail.

While too much screen time is never recommended, researchers note that some screen time is all right, depending on the content and whether others are watching, too. "TV that is watched with a parent that is developmentally appropriate for a child can be a positive experience for both the parent and the child," a behavioral pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia noted.

Bottom line: While kids might calm down for the moment if you put them in front of the TV, you don't want to make it a habit.

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