Daily screen-time of children may affect their behavior in the long term. A study suggests that children who spend more than two hours on digital screens are likely to develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The researchers investigated the behavior of pre-school children using data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study. Involved in the CHILD Cohort study were nearly 2,500 kids and parents who reported the daily screen-time of their children at a given age.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends only one hour of screen time daily for 3-year-olds and two hours for 5-year-olds.

The findings reveal that 3-year-olds spend around 1.5 hours a day in front of a screen which is 30 minutes more than the recommended duration. By the time the children reach the age of 5, their average screen-time is 1.4 hours daily. Translation of this data means that over one in every 10 kids or 13 percent of the 5-year-olds surpassed the screen-time of two hours recommended by the pediatric group.

Kids' Screen-Time Linked To Inattention Behaviors

Compared to children with less than 30 minutes of screen time daily, those watching more than two hours a day were five times more likely to exhibit inattention problems and over seven times likely to meet the criteria for ADHD. The study, however, stated that there was no significant association between a child's screen-time and aggressive behaviors.

"We found screen time had a significant impact at five years of age," said Piush Mandhane, associate professor of pediatrics in the University of Alberta's faculty of medicine and dentistry.

The study suggests that the optimal amount of screen time for children should be between zero and 30 minutes daily.

"The two big takeaways from this study are that children exposed to more screen time at either age three or five years showed significantly greater behavioural and attention problems at age five, and that this association was greater than any other risk factor we assessed, including sleep, parenting stress, and socioeconomic factors," said Sukhpreet Tamana, the study's first author.

Physical Activities Protect From Negative Effects Of Screen-Time

The researchers also looked at other factors that provided protection from the negative effects of too much screen-time. They cited good, quality sleep to have a small impact.

Participation in organized sports was found to have highly significant protective effects. The study suggests that the more time children spend on organized sports, the less likely they were to exhibit behavioral problems.

In lieu of screen time, parents should increase the opportunities for children to experience other structured activities. The researchers said physical activities and organized sports sets the stage for development among children.

The study results were published in the journal PLOS One.

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