95% of preschoolers in Finland exceed WHO recommendations for screen time
Nearly all 5-year-olds in a Finnish birth cohort study exceeded the WHO-recommended maximum daily screen time of 1 hour, putting their psychosocial well-being at risk, researchers wrote in BMJ Open.
Juulia Paavonen, a docent at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and colleagues asked parents of 699 preschool-aged children to report the amount of time their child spent engaged in electronic media (defined as watching programs on television and other electronic devices and how many hours their child took part in electronic game-playing on a computer, console device, cell phone, tablet or other device) at age 18 months and again at age 5 years. The researchers also asked parents about their children’s psychosocial symptoms at age 5 years via the Five-to-Fifteen Questionnaire and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.
The researchers reported that 95% of the preschool children surpassed the maximum screen time recommended by WHO for children aged 2 to 4 years. Although screen time at 5 years of age was associated with a higher risk for numerous psychosocial symptoms (OR = 1.53; 95% CI, 1.05-3.34), it was only associated with internalizing and externalizing symptoms at age 18 months (OR = 1.59; 95% CI, 1.04-2.41).
In addition, “high-dose use” of electronic games at age 5 years was associated with fewer risks for psychosocial well-being than program viewing — specifically, it was linked to hyperactivity (OR = 1.65; 95% CI, 1.08-2.51), according to the researchers.
“It is important for physicians to be aware that many young children have more screen time than recommended by WHO and that screen time is still a significant risk factor for psychosocial difficulties even in young children,” Paavonen said. “For parents it is important to know screen time is a risk factor for emotional and behavioral symptoms, inattention and hyperactivity.”
She said the findings also underscore the importance of young children spending time away from devices with screens.
“Children learn social skills and behavior and emotion regulation in everyday situations with adults and other children,” she said. “Screens can negatively influence interactions between family members in many ways.”