Increased screen time among children aged 1 year is associated with developmental delays in communication and problem-solving skills at ages 2 and 4, according to study findings published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers conducted a cohort study to evaluate screen time exposure among children aged 1 year and the developmental delay in several domains of childhood development.
The researchers collected data from the Tohoku Medical Megabank Project Birth and Three-Generation (TMM BirThree) Cohort Study in Japan. They recruited pregnant women from the hospital and obstetric clinics between July 2013 and March 2017.
A total of 7097 pairs of mothers and children were included in the study. Screen time was assessed using a questionnaire and child development from 1 to 66 months was evaluated using the Ages & Stages Questionnaires, Third Edition (ASQ-3).
Of the children included in this study, 3674 were boys (51.8%) and 3423 were girls (48.2%). Participants were divided into 4 groups based on screen time: less than 1 hour (3440 children [48.5%]), 1 to less than 2 hours (2095 children [29.5%]), 2 to less than 4 hours (1272 children [17.9%]), and 4 or more hours (290 children [4.1%]).
Overall, developmental delays in the domains of communication (361 [5.1%]), gross motor (400 [5.6%]), fine motor (329 [4.6%]), problem-solving (301 [4.2%]), and personal and social skills (387 [5.5%]) were observed at age 2.
The researchers also reported delays in the development of communication (283 [4.0%]), gross motor (303 [4.3%]), fine motor (349 [4.9%]), problem-solving (269 [3.8%]), and personal and social skills (328 [4.6%]) at age 4.
Mothers of children with higher screen times were generally younger, had a lower household income, and lower education. In addition, these mothers were more likely to have never given birth prior and had an increased risk for postpartum depression.
There was an association between screen time at age 1 and developmental delays in communication at age 2, specifically for children with 1 to less than 2 hours a day of screen time (odds ratio [OR], 1.61; 95% CI, 1.23-2.10) and 2 to less than 4 hours of screen time (OR, 2.04; 95% CI, 1.52-2.74).
Compared with children with less than 1 hour of screen time daily, those who had more than 4 hours of screen time experienced developmental delays in the domains of communication (OR, 4.78; 95% CI, 3.24-7.06), fine motor (OR, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.09-2.79), problem-solving (OR, 2.67; 95% CI, 1.72-4.14), and personal and social skills (OR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.39-3.18).
“Although screen time has been associated with developmental delay, it may have an educational aspect depending on the programs watched on electronic devices,” the researchers noted. “In fact, a meta-analysis showed that greater screen use was associated with decreased language skills, whereas screen time spent on educational programs was associated with increased language skills.”
The main limitation of this study was the inability to separate educational screen time from other types of screen time.
Takahashi I, Obara T, Ishikuro M, et al. Screen time at age 1 year and communication and problem-solving developmental delay at 2 and 4 years. JAMA Pediatr. Published online August 21, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.3057