More Screen Time = More Behavioral Problems in Preschoolers

The more screen time preschoolers get each day, the more likely they are to exhibit behavioral problems, according to a study in PLOS One.

Researchers in Canada studied 2400 children whose parents completed questionnaires about screen time when the children were ages 3 and 5 years, as well as behavioral assessments at age 5 years.

Overall, 1.2% of the children had externalizing problems at age 5 (e.g., inattention, aggressiveness), and 2.5% had internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety, depression). Compared with children who got less than 30 minutes of screen time daily, those who got more than 2 hours had significantly increased risks for externalizing problems, internalizing problems, and total behavioral problems. In particular, children who got more than 2 hours daily were six times more likely to have inattention problems. Excessive screen time was also associated with nearly an eightfold increase in significant ADHD symptoms.

Of note, greater physical activity seemed protective against behavioral problems.

In addition, the World Health Organization has also released new guidance on physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and sleep for young children.

Among the recommendations:

  • Screen time for 2- to 4-year-olds should be limited to 1 hour or less a day.
  • Infants should get at least 30 minutes of tummy time (while awake) spread throughout the day and shouldn’t be exposed to screens.
  • Children shouldn’t be restrained in a high chair or stroller or strapped onto a caregiver’s back for more than an hour at a time.
  • Those aged 1 to 4 years should get at least 180 minutes of physical activity every day. For 3- and 4-year-olds, 60 minutes of activity should be of moderate-to-vigorous intensity.
  • Children should get the following amounts of good-quality sleep daily: 14–17 hours at 0–3 months of age, 12–16 hours at 4–11 months, 11–14 hours at age 1–2 years, and 10–13 hours at age 3–4 years.


Autism: The Importance of Social Interactions and the Internet (Free)

WHO guidelines (Free PDF)

Background: Physician’s First Watch coverage of HHS guidelines on physical activity (Free)

PLOS One article (Free)

Background: Physician’s First Watch coverage of AAP guidance on media use (Free)

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