A new study by the University of Calgary shows that children 2-5 years old who engage in more screen time are more likely to receive lower performance scores on development screening tests.

“What sets this study apart from previous research is that we looked specifically at the lasting impacts of screen time,” said Dr. Sheri Madigan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary. “What these findings tell us is that one reason there may be disparities in learning and behavior at school entry is because some kids are in front of their screens far too often in early childhood.”

Ninety-eight percent of children in the United States under 8-years-old live in a home with an internet-connected device and spend an average of two hours a day on screens, according to a report by Common Sense Media.

One out of every four children entering school is inadequately prepared for learning and academic success, a gap that widens over time if not addressed.

Families who participated in the study reported their children spent an average of 2.4, 3.6 and 1.6 hours of screen time per day at two, three and five years of age, respectively.

“A lot of the positive stimulation that helps kids with their physical and cognitive development comes from interactions with caregivers,” said Dr. Madigan. “When they’re in front of their screens, these important parent-child interactions aren’t happening, and this can delay or derail children’s development.”

The study notes that when children are engaging in screen time, they’re inactive and missing out on crucial opportunities to walk and run, which helps practice motor and communication skills.