Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

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Want a Better America? The First 2,000 Days of Life Matters Most

The most important investment we can make as a country is in the healthy development of our next generation.

Consider this: In the time it takes children to celebrate their first five birthdays, nearly 90 percent of physical brain development occurs. For the average 3-year-old, that means 700 new synapses are formed every single second. This critical development depends on active stimulation, interaction and skill development. We know that children who don't receive such developmental supports grow up without the strong foundation of knowledge and character skills necessary for success in school, career and life.

There is no question that we know more about children's brain development—and how best to make sure it is a success. Unfortunately, government has failed to keep pace and the result is a missed opportunity for too many disadvantaged children and our nation as a whole.

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Step Away from the Smartphone

It's a New Year. Maybe it's a good time to re-evaluate our ever more complicated relationship to technology.

I received an email from a friend today which, he wrote, interrupted "my year-long vow of digital semi-silence as a cellular-and-social-media-free human.” Reflecting on the hours spent on the various gadgets that surround me, I thought, 'Maybe I should take that vow in 2011.'

New York Times reporter Matt Richtel would likely think that was not a bad idea, having spent the past year on the series, Our Brain on Computers, a provocative and often jarring collection of articles exploring how the constant use of our devices impacts not only our behavior but our thought processes and even our neurology. Richtel, who won a Pulitzer in 2009 for his series of the dangers of multitasking while driving, has in the course of his research, spoken to numerous scientists who recognize the merits of technology but not unconditionally. As Richtel explained it to Teri Gross in an interview on Fresh Air earlier this year, "When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring — you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline," he says. "Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You're conditioned by a neurological response: 'Check me check me check me check me.' "

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