Preschoolers’ extensive electronic media use linked to emotional/behavioural issues

MARCH 17, 2021

by British Medical Journal

Preschoolers’ extensive use of electronic media, including game consoles, mobile phones, and tablets, is linked to a heightened risk of emotional and behavioral problems by the age of 5, finds research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

This behavior is associated with hyperactivity, short attention span, poor concentration and peer relationship issues, among other things, the findings suggest.

Patterns of children‘s electronic media use are changing rapidly, say the researchers. Preschoolers’ use of mobile phones and tablets tripled between 2013 and 2017, with recent studies indicating that many 4-year-olds now play games, use apps, or watch videos on them every day.

Concerns have been raised that young children’s extensive use of electronic media may impede healthy development, affecting language and social skills, as well as potentially fostering addictive behavior.

The researchers therefore wanted to find out if extensive electronic media use among young children might affect their psychological health and wellbeing by the time they reach the age of 5, and if different types of activity might be influential.


“Our results show that 5-year-old children spend considerably more time on e-media than is recommended by professionals. Our results further indicate that high levels of e-media use, especially program viewing, is associated with problems with psychosocial outcomes, while use of electronic games was only associated with hyperactivity in the crude models.”

They emphasize: “Although children’s e-media use patterns might not seem problematic when considering use on a daily level, they do have risks in the long term.”


More information: High-­dose electronic media use in five-year-olds and its association with their psychosocial symptoms: a cohort study, DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-040848

Journal information: BMJ Open

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