You need a few minutes to cook dinner, do chores, go to the bathroom or just be alone with your thoughts. So you plop your toddler in front of the television or iPad to keep them occupied while you get something done. No big deal, right?

Apparently, it is. A new study from Drexel University says that exposing babies and toddlers under age 2 to any amount of television viewing and other forms of “screen time” could be harmful to their sensory development.

The study said that very young children who watch a lot of television or videos are more likely to develop what is called “atypical sensory processing behaviors,” like being disinterested in activities, or feeling overwhelmed by loud sounds and bright lights.

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In the study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers at Drexel’s College of Medicine looked at data from 2011-2014 on television or DVD-watching by babies and toddlers at 12, 18 and 24 months from a study of 1,471 children across the U.S. The study did not look at media displayed on smartphones or tablets.

Parents and caregivers then filled out a questionnaire when their child was 33 months old on how they were able to process what they saw, smelled and heard.

Adjustments were made for age, if the child was premature, the family’s background and other factors.

The study found that children with screen exposure at 12 months were 105% more likely to exhibit “high” sensory behaviors. At 18 months, each additional hour of screen time increased the odds by 23%. And at 24 months, the odds increase by 20% with each additional hour of viewing.

“If a child consistently doesn’t like to be held, tries to escape noisy environments and it’s becoming stressful for the parent as well, that might be a sign that something is going on there,” Drexel University psychologist David Bennett, the study’s senior author, said to 6ABC in Philadelphia.

“This association could have important implications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, as atypical sensory processing is much more prevalent in these populations,” lead author Karen Heffler, an associate professor of psychiatry in Drexel’s College of Medicine, said.

While the study does note a correlation between neurodivergent problems and screen time, it does not say the latter causes the former.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any screen time for children under the age of 2, with the one exception of video calls. It recommends only one hour of viewing per day for children ages 2 to 5.

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