Study: More Screen Time May Cause Social Problems for Kids

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Children who spend more than two hours in front of a television or computer screen were more likely to report behavioral and social problems than kids who watched less, according to a University of Bristol study that will be published in November’s Pediatrics.

Researchers recorded the playing, screen viewing and activity habits of 1,000 children aged 10 to 11. They also had the kids fill out questionnaires designed to gauge the kids’ emotional well-being and behavior. Reports the BBC:

The questionnaires contained 20 questions covering five sections — emotional difficulties, conduct problems, hyperactivity or inattention, friendships and peer groups and problems relating to friends and peer groups.

The study found that those children who spent more than two hours per day watching TV or using a computer were at an increased risk of psychological difficulties.

This risk increased if they also failed to meet the guidelines on physical activity.

While the risks for kids who spent a lot of time in front of a screen appeared to be exacerbated by lack of physical activity, the opposite was not true: increases in physical activity did not seem to mitigate kids’ high scores in psychological difficulties if they spent a lot of time sedentary in front of a screen. By contrast, sedentary time spent reading a book or working on a project corresponded to the highest scores of psychological well-being. (More on Why Spoiled Babies Grow Up to Be Smarter, Kinder Kids)

“Whilst low levels of screen viewing may not be problematic, we cannot rely on physical activity to compensate for long hours of screen viewing,” lead author Dr. Angie Page said in a statement. “Watching TV or playing computer games for more than two hours a day is related to greater psychological difficulties irrespective of how active children are.”

Although Page’s study doesn’t clarify the links between inactivity, screen time and psychological well-being, it’s true that kids in the U.S. are getting less exercise and more screen time than they should. In 2009, Page’s team found a correlation between a child’s physical activity and independent mobility, the amount of space in which a child can play without the supervision of an adult. They posited that, as playspaces have decreased in recent decades, childhood inactivity — and perhaps screen time – has increased.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for kids under age 2, and no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming for older kids. Click here for helpful tips on how to limit TV and screen time at home.

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