Research on the Effects of Screen Time for Children and Teens
The time a child or adolescent spends before a screen (television, computer, video, ipad, smartphone, etc.) has varied effects upon the child. Listed below is research on the subject.
- Greater quantity of screen use by young children (ie, duration of use and background television) is associated with lower language skills.
- Screen time has direct effects upon the white matter of a child’s developing brain. In healthy prekindergarten children, screen use greater than that recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines was associated with (1) lower measures of microstructural organization and myelination of brain white matter tracts that support language and emergent literacy skills and (2) corresponding cognitive assessments.
- Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time. Adolescents who spend more time on new media (social media and electronic devices such as smartphones) are more likely to report mental health issues than adolescents who spend more time on non-screen activities (in-person social interaction, sports/exercise, homework, print media, and attending religious services).
- Association Between Portable Screen-Based Media Device Access or Use and Sleep Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Bedtime access to and use of a media device were significantly associated with the following: inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Handheld Screen Time Linked to Speech Delay in Young Children. Based on a screening tool for language delay, researchers found that the more handheld screen time a child’s parent reported, the more likely the child was to have delays in expressive speech. For each 30-minute increase in handheld screen time, researchers found a 49 percent increased risk of expressive speech delay.
- Household Routines and Obesity in US Preschool-Aged Children. US preschool-aged children exposed to the 3 household routines of regularly eating the evening meal as a family, obtaining adequate nighttime sleep, and having limited screen-viewing time had an ∼40% lower prevalence of obesity than those exposed to none of these routines.
Physical Activity and Screen-Time Viewing Among Elementary School–Aged Children: Fewer than 4 in 10 children met both physical activity and screen-time recommendations concurrently. The prevalence of sedentary behavior was higher in older children. Low levels of screen-time viewing may not necessarily predict higher levels of physical activity.
- Activity Levels in Mothers and their Preschool Children. Physical activity levels in mothers and their 4-year-old children are directly associated.
- Higher Screen Time and Lower Physical Activity related to Psychological Distress. Higher levels of television and screen entertainment time and low physical activity levels interact to increase psychological distress in young children.
Healthy Habits, Happy Homes: Randomized Trial to Improve Household Routines for Obesity Prevention Among Preschool-Aged Children: Promoting household routines, particularly increasing sleep duration and reducing TV viewing, may be an effective approach to reduce body mass index among low-income, racial/ethnic minority children.
Food Consumption and Screen-Based Sedentary Behaviors: Increased television viewing and computer and Internet use during adolescence is associated with higher odds of consumption of sweetened beverages and lower odds of fruit consumption.
Television Watching and Soft Drink Consumption Associations With Obesity in 11- to 13-Year-Old Schoolchildren: Time spent watching television and the number of soft drinks consumed were significantly associated with obesity.
When Children Eat What They Watch: Impact of Television Viewing on Dietary Intake in Youth: Increases in television viewing are associated with increased calorie intake among youth. This association is mediated by increasing consumption of calorie-dense low-nutrient foods frequently advertised on television.
- The Relationship Between Parent’s and Children’s Television Viewing:Parent television time is associated with child television time and had a stronger relationship to child time than access to television in the home or the child’s bedroom, as well as parental rules about television viewing and coviewing. This pattern persisted across all age groups of children.
- Relationship Between the Use of Television During Meals and Children’s Food Consumption Patterns: The dietary patterns of children from families in which television viewing is a normal part of meal routines may include fewer fruits and vegetables and more pizzas, snack foods, and sodas than the dietary patterns of children from families in which television viewing and eating are separate activities.
- Television Viewing Habits and Sleep Disturbance in Children. Most of the television–viewing practices examined in this study were associated with at least one type of sleep disturbance. The television–viewing habits associated most significantly with sleep disturbance were increased daily television viewing amounts and increased television viewing at bedtime, especially in the context of having a television set in the child’s bedroom.
- Increased Screen Time is Associated with Poor Adolescent-parent Attachment. Screen time was associated with poor attachment to parents and peers in adolescents.
- Childhood and Adolescent Television Viewing and Antisocial Behavior in Early Adulthood. Excessive television viewing in childhood and adolescence is associated with increased antisocial behavior in early adulthood. Children should watch no more than 1 to 2 hours of television each day.
- Media Violence Exposure in Adolescence. We conclude that aggressive media activates an emotion–attention network that has the capability to blunt emotional responses through reduced attention with repeated viewing of aggressive media contents, which may restrict the linking of the consequences of aggression with an emotional response, and therefore potentially promotes aggressive attitudes and behavior.
- Television Viewing in Infancy. Television viewing in infancy does not seem to be associated with language or visual motor skills at 3 years of age. There is also little to no evidence of any benefits of TV viewing for children <2 years of age, yet many parents believe TV helps their infants learn.
- Infant Media Exposure and Toddler Development. The duration of media exposure at age 6 months was associated with lower cognitive development at age 14 months and lower language development. Children should have no media exposure before age 2 years.
- More Screen Time linked to Lower Psychological Ability. Both television viewing and computer use were related to higher psychological difficulty scores, regardless of how much time the children spent on physical activity.
- Television Viewing and Externalizing Problems in Preschool Children. This study shows that high television exposure at 2-3 years of age increases the risk of the incidence and the persistence of externalizing problems (poor attention ability, noncompliance, hyperactivity, and concentration difficulties) in preschool children.
- Sleep Duration, Restfulness, and Screens in Sleep Environments. “Sleeping near a small screen, sleeping with a TV in the room, and more screen time were associated with shorter sleep durations. Even the presence of a small screen (not a TV) in the sleep environment and screen time was associated with perceived insufficient rest or sleep. These findings caution against unrestricted screen access in children’s bedrooms.”
- The Relationship between Addictive Use of Social Media and Video Games and Psychiatric Disorders. Strong correlations exist between addictive technology use and mental disorder symptoms.
- Screen Time, Wireless, and EMF Research. This is a web resource for research on the effects of digital devices on children.
Screen Time Associated with Inattention and ADHD
- Association of Digital Media Use in Teens with Subsequent Inattention. Excessive digital media use among teens 15-16 years old resulted in in symptoms of ADHD.
- Inattention among University Students and Screen Time. Results of this large cross-sectional study among French university and higher education students show dose-dependent associations between screen time and self-perceived levels of attention problems and hyperactivity.
- Television and video game exposure and the development of attention problems. Viewing television and playing video games each are associated with increased subsequent attention problems in childhood. It seems that a similar association among television, video games, and attention problems exists in late adolescence and early adulthood.