Many parents say they are worried about the negative effects of screen time on children. Too much of anything can have negative effects, from books to music to TV, but the solution is to impose diversity so they eventually enjoy different activities.

The screen time problem got even worse due to government lockdowns imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than wear masks in a park, it generally led to more screen time and less outdoor time for children. 

A new paper says that screen time at age 2 is associated with poorer communication and daily living skills at age 4 unless kids also played outdoors. This is an observational study so cause and effect can't be established nor can conclusions be drawn but scholars do it anyway based on 885 children from 18 months to 4 years of age. They looked at the relationship between three key features: average amount of screen time per day at age 2, amount of outdoor play at age 2 years 8 months, and neurodevelopmental outcomes—specifically, communication, daily living skills, and socialization scores according to a standardized assessment tool called Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale-II—at age 4.

They say nearly 20 percent of the effects of screen time on daily living skills were mediated by outdoor play, meaning that increasing outdoor play time could reduce the negative effects of screen time on daily living skills by almost 20%. The researchers also found that, although it was not linked to screen time, socialization was better in 4-year-olds who had spent more time playing outside at 2 years 8 months of age.