Addiction to the screen begins in early infancy: Research

New research shows that interest in mobile devices begins at an increasingly early age, with very young children becoming hooked on gadgets. In particular, children of first-time mothers, especially those in home-based childcare, log most screen time.

According to researchers based at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U.S.), children’s average daily time spent on a mobile device rose from a typical 53 minutes at age 12 months to over 150 minutes by the age of three years. Once they reach the age of eight, children tend to hit the highest amount of screen time. This remains more likely if the children are in home-based childcare or where they are born to first-time mothers.

For the study, the science group collected data from the Upstate KIDS Study (relating to children born in New York State between 2008 to 2010). In total, the mothers of over 4,000 children took part in the study, with responses taken from questionnaires.

The researchers classified the children into two groups connected to how much their typical daily screen time increased from age 1 to age 3. By accounting for other factors, this revealed how higher levels of parental education were linked with less screen time for the children, in that lower screen time rates were associated with parents who held a high school diploma compared with other parents.

The research also found that girls were associated with slightly less screen time than boys.

Discussing the study, lead researcher Dr. Edwina Yeung says: “Our results indicate that screen habits begin early. This finding suggests that interventions to reduce screen time could have a better chance of success if introduced early.”

The reason why interventions are important is due to the association with excessive screen time and the ill-health effects associated with a sedentary lifestyle, including cancer, diabetes, and poor cardiovascular health in later life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding digital media exposure for children under 18 months of age. The AAP recommends parents prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers.

The following video expands upon these recommendations:

One data set drawn from the study showed that 87 percent of the children had screen time exceeded these recommendations.

The research has been published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, with the research paper headed “Association of Trajectory and Covariates of Children’s Screen Media Time.”

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