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60 Minutes Does Huge Piece on True Impact of Screen Time

Early results of study may seem alarming, but the findings are preliminary
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2018 1:04 PM CST
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / bangkok)

(Newser) – Sunday night's 60 Minutes report on screen time and kids has parents buzzing: "Heavy screen time appears to impact children's brains," reads a sample headline making the rounds. The report looked at the National Institutes of Health's Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, in which more than 11,000 9- and 10-year-olds will be followed for a decade "to see how childhood experiences impact the brain," per Bloomberg. The study began in 2013. 60 Minutes reported on the "first wave of information" from the study, which involved brain scans of 4,500 children, per AFP. Some key findings: children who spend more than seven hours per day on screens may experience premature thinning of the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain that processes sensory information, and kids who spend more than two hours per day on screens score lower on thinking and language tests.

But the Telegraph notes that the second finding came from an observational study, meaning it wasn't possible to prove a link between the extra screen hours and the lower cognitive skill scores, and as for the premature cortical thinning (a natural process that typically happens in later development), "we don't know if it's being caused by the screen time," a researcher explains. "We don't know yet if it's a bad thing." Axios notes that these are preliminary results that have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and at the New York Times, science reporter and author Benedict Carey notes that the early results from the NIH study are actually a "mixed bag." Researchers, he says, have yet to find hard evidence of screen time causing "meaningful" changes to the adolescent brain. For 60 Minutes' full report, including outside experts talking about screen time, see here. (Here's one thing you may not have to worry about when it comes to screens.)

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