American Family watching TV in the 1950s

An influential British medical journal is formally asking the government to set guidelines for young children’s television and computer watching habits. Doctors recommended that children under three years of age should be kept away from television screens altogether, or else they are risking long-term cognitive effects, according to the Guardian.

The Archives of Disease in Children says that as technology consumes more and more of human experience parents must resist the urge to plunk their children in front of a TV -set and have them zone out. The brain rapidly develops from birth to roughly three years and that development could be hurt by excessive time staring at screens, according to Professor Mitch Blair.

“Whether its mobile phones, game consoles, TVs or laptops, advances in technology mean children are exposed to screens for longer amounts of time than ever before,” Blair told the Guardian. “We are becoming increasingly concerned, as are pediatricians in several other countries, as to how this affects rapidly developing brains in children and young people.”

Some experts seemed to recognize the difficulty parents would have stopping their young children from watching television or playing on an iPad altogether. Others have suggested that the development would not be as stifled if an adult is present as a child fixates on a screen. An interactive experience is certainly preferable, according to what the scientists told the Guardian.

“It would be great if someone could invent a lock that could automatically ensure a daily shutdown of all the different devices in and around the home after a designated period,” Justine Roberts, co-founder of parenting website Mumsnet, said. “Until such a thing is invented, it’s going to be an ongoing battle to keep on top of everything.”

Pediatricians suggested a child who’s given too much screen-exposure is at greater risk of obesity and heart problems later in life. They also said teenagers should limit themselves to two hours a day on the computer or watching television, a request unlikely to be heeded.

The BBC reported that, along with developing a sedentary lifestyle, another study found that more and more people are growing up relying too heavily on their television.

“Whether children or adults are formally addicted to the screen technology or not, many of them overuse technology and have developed an unhealthy dependence on it,” Dr. Aric Sigman said earlier this year. “It is always the principle of caution in children, except for screen time.”

The New York Times reported in 2011 that men watched an average of 2.99 hours of television each day while women watched 2.53. Less-educated Americans also spent more time in front of their sets while children’s TV habits were found to have increased with age.