HealthDay News — Increased screen time in preschool is associated with increased odds of clinically significant externalizing problems and clinically significant inattention problems, according to a study published online April 17 in PLOS ONE.

Sukhpreet K. Tamana, Ph.D., from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues examined the correlations between screen time and preschool behavior using data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study. Children’s total screen time was reported, including on gaming and mobile devices, and was categorized according to the recommended thresholds of two hours/day for five years or one hour/day for three years. Screen-time data were available for 2,322 children.

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Mean screen time was 1.4 and 1.5 hours/day at five and three years, respectively. The researchers found that children watching more than two hours/day had a 2.2-point increase in externalizing T-score compared with children with less than 30 minutes/day; they also had fivefold increased odds for reporting clinically significant externalizing problems and were 5.9 times more likely to report clinically significant inattention problems. The risk for meeting criteria for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder was increased 7.7-fold for children with more than two hours of screen time per day. No significant correlation was identified between screen time and aggressive behaviors.

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“Our findings indicate that preschool may be a critical period for supporting parents and families on education about limiting screen-time and supporting physical activity,” the authors write.

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