MRI Study Associates Screen Time Exposure In Children To Lower Brain Development

(John Vibes) According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, too much screen time for young children could be linked to slower brain development. The study’s lead author Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says that this is the first known study to examine how screen time affects the actual structure of a child’s growing brain.

The post MRI Study Associates Screen Time Exposure In Children To Lower Brain Development appeared on Stillness in the Storm.

More Kids Are Getting Head Lice … Because of Smartphones?

Younger and younger children are being handed smartphones by their parents; and for many children, access to 24/7 technology has resulted in attention and sleep problems and family arguments. Now it appears that smartphones are bringing a fresh misery to parents and children everywhere: head lice. [1]

Researchers recently studied over 200 school-age children and found that those who owned a smartphone or tablet were twice as likely to be infested with lice. This is because the phones encourage children to gather in groups – the perfect opportunity for the bugs to make a beeline from scalp to scalp.

Only 29.5% of children who did not have a mobile device experienced head lice, compared to 62.5% of smartphone- and tablet-owning kids.

Nearly half of the participants had been chomped on by head lice in the previous five years, up to 22 times more than the previous numbers: 2-8%.

Unlike with earlier studies, the researchers didn’t find a specific link between increased cases of head lice and selfies.

Dr. Tess McPherson, of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Compared to previous estimates of head lice incidence our figures were much higher, showing that almost half of children have had them in the last five years, which may not come as a surprise to parents.

We also noted that children with smartphones or tablets were more likely to get head lice, which is interesting but we can only guess that this is due to the way that young people gather around them, though there could be other reasons.

Selfie culture gets its fair share of negative press so it’s worth noting that despite previous speculation it seems that selfies can’t specifically be blamed for helping the spread of head lice at this stage.” [1]

What’s more, previous estimates of how many children in the U.K. have experienced head lice “may be conservative.”

Those who were most affected by lice were girls with siblings aged 6-9. [2]

The team of scientists also found that 45% of the children in the study had been infested with head lice in the last five years, a longer period than covered by earlier research. [1]

Matthew Gass, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said:

“Head lice are a pain to deal with, both for children and their parents.

Speaking from experience, they are intractable misery bugs that take far more time and effort to remove than is reasonable.

Not to mention the obligatory quarantine period that they necessitate. That’s why a better understanding of how these pests are transmitted is useful.

Prevention is always better than a cure, particularly if the cure means wrenching your poor daughter’s hair with a fine-toothed nit comb, or relying on over-the-counter remedies that head lice are increasingly resistant to.

We’re not saying that smartphones are causing children to get head lice, but that there is a link, so if there’s an outbreak at home or at school, consider how electronic devices might cause children to congregate, allowing head lice to spread.” [1]

Contrary to popular belief, head lice don’t care about the cleanliness or length of hair. They’re not usually spread via combs, hats or pillows, and lice cannot be caught from animals. Head lice can’t swim, jump or fly, and people typically become infested with them when the insects crawl directly from one person’s hair onto another’s. [2]

Read: Natural Solutions for Head Lice

Another factor in the growing spread of lice not mentioned in the study: resistance to the pesticides most commonly used to eradicate them.

The findings of the study were presented at the British Association of Dermatologists annual conference in Liverpool.


[1] The Telegraph

[2] The Sun

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“Text Neck” is Giving Young People Major Spine Issues

No matter where you go, you probably see people leaning over looking at their cellphones. Chances are, you’ve seen it in your own house. Hey, you might even do it yourself. (It’s OK, I won’t judge you – I do it, too.) Well, a study in The Spine Journal shows that young people who shouldn’t have back and neck problems are already reporting disc hernias and alignment complications due to prolonged smartphone use. [1]

X-rays reveal how young people’s spines are changing because of chronic smartphone use, researcher Todd Lanman, a spinal neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, says. [2]

“In an X-ray, the neck typically curves backward, and what we’re seeing is that the curve is being reversed as people look down at their phones for hours each day.

By the time patients get to me, they’re already in bad pain and have disc issues. The real concern is that we don’t know what this means down the road for kids today who use phones all day.”

Lanman and study co-author Dr. Jason Cuellar, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Cedars-Sinai, say that people tend to look down at their phones more while texting than they do when they’re browsing the Internet or watching a video. Many young people rely on texting as their sole means of communication, which means they crane their necks often for several hours a day.

In earlier studies, researchers found that people hold their necks at about 45 degrees, and the curve gets worse as they sit, versus standing.

The weight of your head changes, depending on what position you’re in – something you might have noticed but never actually connected with your neck and back problems. When you’re looking forward in a neutral position, your head weighs about 10-12 pounds. However, at a 15-degree flex, it feels like 27 pounds. The stress on the spine increases by degree, and at 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds. That’s one heavy noggin.


Lanman says:

“For today’s users, will an 8-year-old need surgery at age 28? In kids who have spines that are still growing and not developed, we’re not sure what to expect or if this could change normal anatomies.”

These Problems are Easily Avoided

Fortunately, you can avoid developing such problems by simply “training” yourself to hold your phone in front of your face or near eye level while texting. You may also find that you’re more comfortable if you use 2 hands and both thumbs to make your spine more symmetrical. [1]

Poor posture and spine problems also affect people who regularly use computers and tablets. If that’s you (it’s certainly me), the researchers recommend using an elevated monitor stand so your computer or tablet sits at a natural horizontal eye level. [2]

If you’re a laptop user, you can alleviate the problem by using a separate keyboard and mouse so that the laptop can be at eye level and you can sit in an ergonomically-correct position.

Gwanseob Shin of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology Ergonomics Lab in South Korea, who wasn’t involved with the study, says:

“It is difficult to recommend a proper posture for smartphone users. If we raise the phone at eye level to avoid the look-down posture, it will add new concerns for the shoulder due to the elevated arm posture.”

Source: Daily Mail

Instead, Shin says, smartphone users should take “frequent rest breaks or some physical exercise that can strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles.”

Some of the stretches and exercises Lanman recommends involve lying on your bed and hanging your head over the edge while extending your neck backward, thus restoring the normal arc in your neck.

He also recommends aligning the neck and spine by making sure that your ears are over your shoulders, and your shoulders are over your hips.

Shin says:

“Ask your friend to take a photo of your upper body when you’re texting, then use the picture as the background image on your phone. That will remind you to take breaks frequently. Even a short break of a few seconds – called a micro-break – can help our tissues recover.”


[1] University Herald

[2] Reuters

Daily Mail

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Could Staring at a Screen Ignite Speech Delays in Toddlers?

Smartphones and tablets are a good way to keep young children quiet and entertained, but a recent study suggests that babies and toddlers allowed too much screen time may go on to develop speech delays.

Study principal investigator Dr. Catherine Birken, a staff pediatrician and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, says:

“Handheld devices are everywhere these days. While new pediatric guidelines suggest limiting screen time for babies and toddlers, we believe that the use of smartphones and tablets with young children has become quite common. This is the first study to report an association between handheld screen time and increased risk of expressive language delay.” [1]

The American Academy of Family Physicians explains expressive language as the ability to convey feelings and information. The AAP discourages any type of screen media in children younger than 18 months.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics moved away last year from recommending a total ban on screen time in children 18-24 months. Instead, the group says that parents of children in this age group should choose high-quality programming and view it with their children to make sure they understand what they are seeing. [2]

One thing is clear: Unsupervised, unlimited screen time is not good for developing brains.

More Screen Time = More Risk

The study involved nearly 900 children from Toronto between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. At their 18-month checkup, 20% of the children of the youngsters were already spending an average of 28 minutes per day using handheld electronic gadgets, such as tablets, smartphones, and electronic games. [1]

The team used an infant toddler checklist, a validated screening tool, to assess the children’s language development at 18 months. They wanted to find out whether the child used sounds or words get attention or help, if they were able to put words together, and how many words each child used. [2]

The researchers found that the more time a child spent using handheld devices, the more likely that child was to have delays in expressive speech. To be specific, every 30 minutes of screen time was associated with a 49% increased risk of expressive speech delay.

The study did not find any link between the use of a handheld device and other areas of communication, such as gestures, body language, and social interaction. [2]

The study also did not prove a direct cause-and-effect link between handheld devices and speech delays. The team concluded that more research is needed to better understand the connection. [1]

Michael Robb, research director for Common Sense Media, says:

“This is an important study in highlighting some of the potential risks associated with media use, and specifically handheld mobile devices. What’s driving the effect is very important. The negative effects may be due to screen time replacing parent-child interaction (playing, reading, talking, singing, etc.) which are critical for healthy development.” [2]

The study was presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco.

Gadgets like smartphones and tablets are fun, and can be very educational, but they are also associated with stress and anxiety in families that fail to set appropriate boundaries for their use, particularly when it comes to when children can use the devices, and for how long.

As a result, many young children are growing up to be completely dependent on technology. According to the discouraging findings of a study published last spring, about 59% of children ages 12-18 are addicted to their smartphones.

Yet another study published last fall showed that kids as young as 6 are so glued to technology, that even having a phone, tablet, or computer in the room is enough to prevent them from sleeping.

Some adults aren’t much better, let’s be honest. But setting guidelines now may help the littlest ones among us to become more balanced and independent when it comes to technology.


[1] Health Day

[2] CNN

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