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Screen Time Linked to Risks to Children's Psychosocial Well-Being

Increased screen time at age 5 years linked to risks for multiple psychosocial symptoms; fewer risks found for electronic games than program viewing

boy using ipad

THURSDAY, March 18, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Multiple risks are seen for children's psychosocial well-being in association with increased screen time, according to a study published online March 17 in BMJ Open.

Janette Niiranen, from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, and colleagues examined longitudinal associations between electronic media (e-media) use at 18 months and psychosocial symptoms at 5 years of age among 699 children. The parent-reported questionnaires Five-to-Fifteen (FTF) and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) were used to determine psychosocial symptoms at age 5 years.

The researchers found that 95 percent of preschool children exceeded the health professional-established daily recommended use of e-media. Increased screen time at age 5 years correlated with the risk for multiple psychosocial symptoms (odds ratios, 1.53 to 2.18), while increased e-media use at age 18 months correlated with FTF peer problems (odds ratio, 1.59). Compared with program viewing, high-dose use of electronic games at age 5 years correlated with fewer risks for psychosocial well-being and was only associated with SDQ hyperactivity (odds ratio, 1.65).

"Our results further indicate that high levels of e-media use, especially program viewing, is associated with problems with psychosocial outcomes, while use of electronic games was only associated with hyperactivity in the crude models," the authors write. "Although children's e-media use patterns might not seem problematic when considering use on a daily level, they do have risks in the long term."

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