A new study has found that pre-school children who spend too much time on screens are more likely to behave badly by the time they turn five years of age.
Kids who give more than two hours to their tablets, smartphones, and other electronic gadgets are also seven times more likely to have ADHD.
The researchers concluded that the development of a child is significantly impacted by screen time.
One study author suggested that it’s because children miss on healthy activities such as sleep and sport when they spend too much time looking at screens.
According to the researchers, the optimum screen time for pre-school aged children is just half an hour per day, or even less.
Children addicted to screen were found to have more significant behavioral problems when researchers at the University of Alberta studied more than 2,400 families.
In addition to that, the children who spent more than two hours on screen had a higher risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
‘We found screen time had a significant impact at five years of age,’ Dr Piush Mandhane told MailOnline.
Researchers suggested that screen time impact a child’s behavior more significantly than even how stressed their parents are or how much sleep they get.
‘Our data suggests that more screen-time leads to less sleep-time,’ Dr Mandhane said.
‘Developing a regular sleep routine, consistent wake and bed times that limit screen-time prior to bed, in also an important part of growth, development, and behavior.
‘In another analysis, we found that children who watched more than 2 hours of screen time per day were almost 65 per cent less likely to sleep 10 hours per day. So more screen time equals less sleep time.’
In the study published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers also found that healthy sleep and organized sport could protect the brain from the negative effects of excess screen time.
‘The more time children spent doing organized sports, the less likely they were to exhibit behavioral problems,’ Dr Tamana said.
‘A lot of the things that you do through organized activities are really important for young kids early on.
‘I think in lieu of screen time, it would be beneficial for parents to increase opportunities for other structured activities instead.’
However, the researchers didn’t suggest to cut out the screen time completely.
‘Our data suggests that between zero and 30 minutes a day is the optimal amount of screen time,’ said Professor Mandhane.
‘The preschool period is an ideal time for education on healthy relationships with screens.’
But the scientists in Britain have criticized the study, saying it doesn’t provide a direct link between screen time and bad behavior or ADHD.
‘While [the study] suggests that children under the age of five who spend an average of two hours or more a day in front of screens are more likely to have an ADHD diagnosis, it does not provide any indication that screen time has caused the issues,’ Dr Bob Patton, a lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Surrey, said.
‘Whilst overuse of the “electronic babysitter” may or may not contribute towards the development of behavioral problems, parents should be mindful of the possibility, and ensure that young children participate in a variety of activities, both on and off screen.’
Professor Andrew Przybylski, director of research at Oxford University’s Internet Institute, said: ‘There is no baseline data on children’s behavior so it is possible that children who are predisposed to behavioral problems are also predisposed to higher levels of screen-time. The paper does not contextualize this properly.
‘The authors go well beyond their results in providing advice for physicians and educators. The correlations are very small and inconsistent.
‘It is mildly shocking the authors would promote limiting screen-time on the basis of these findings given the evidence in the paper suggests nearly every other factor analyzed was a much stronger predictor.’
The new study supports the previous researches which concluded that more screen time leads to mental health issues, poorer brain development, as well as damaged eyes.
A study conducted at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa found kids aged between eight and 11 had five per cent worse brain function than other kids if they give more than two hours per day to screen.
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