EDMONTON – LIVING – Do your children spend too much time in front of their video screens? From television to video games to Youtube, there is an increasing number of Canadian children who spend a lot of time in front of screens.
Is this a good thing? A new Canadian study of more than 2,400 families suggests that pre-school children spend two hours or more of screen time per day associated with clinically significant behavioral problems.
Compared to children who had less than 30 minutes a day on the screen, children exposed to more than two hours of screening time per day. day, five times more likely to exhibit clinically significant "externalizing" behavioral problems as inattention; and over seven times more likely to meet the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Piush Mandhane, Associate Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Albert's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, led the study, which was published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
"We found that the screen time had a significant impact over five years," Mandhane said. "Current Canadian guidelines require no more than two hours of screen time a day at that age. However, our research suggests that less screening time is even better."
The research used data from the CHILD Cohort Study, a national birth society study compiling a broad range of health, lifestyle, genetic and environmental exposure information from nearly 3,500 children and their families from pregnancy to adolescence. Mandhane leads the Edmonton website for the CHILD Cohort Study.
Parents reported their child's overall screen time per day, including watching TVs and DVDs, and using computers, video consoles, smartphones, and tablets. On average, three-year-old children spent 1
The study also assessed children's behavior and attention at the age of five by having parents complete the child behavior checklist (CBCL), a screening target for a number of issues such as anxiety and depression, emotional reactivity, inattention, aggression and sleep disorders.
"Before this, there were not many data out there that asked the questions," How much is too much? Are the guidelines appropriate? In the end, limiting screen time in pre-school years will have benefits for a child's development? "This study gives parents some of these responses," added the study's first author Sukhpreet Tamana, an AllerGen highly qualified staff and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta.
"The two major takeaways of this study are that children exposed to more screen time, at the age of three or five, showed significantly greater behavioral and attention problems at five years and that this association was greater than any other risk factor , we assessed, including sleep, parents stress and socio-economic factors, "added Tamana.
The researchers also identified factors that provided protection against the negative effects of screen time. Good sleep had a minor influence, while participation in organized sports proved to have a very significant protective effect.
"Interestingly, it was not physical activity that was protective; the activity needed structure," said Mandhane. "And the more time children spent doing organized sports, the less likely they were to show behavioral problems."
"Many of the things you do through organized activities are really important for young children early," Tamana noted. "It sets the stage for childhood development. Instead of screen time, I think it would be beneficial for parents to increase the opportunities for other structured activities instead."
The study did not state whether the media content itself (education, video games, social media ) or screen type (TV, computer, tablet) were important predictors of behavioral problems, although the team plans to investigate these issues more fully in future research.
While scientists suggest "less is more" when it comes to screen time among preschoolers, they do not advocate eliminating it altogether.
"Our data suggests that between zero and 30 minutes a day is the optimum amount of screen time," Mandhane said. "The pre-school period is an ideal time for training on healthy relationships with screens, and we believe our data shows that you can't start prematurely."