Preschoolers spend more than an hour and a half in front of screens

A study published in the scientific journal BMC Public Health found that children in pre-school education (up to 5 years old) spend, on average, more than an hour and a half (154 min) per day in front of the television and other devices.

This study, entitled “Social inequalities in traditional and emerging screen devices among Portuguese children: a cross-sectional study“, was carried out by a team of researchers from CIAS – Center for Research in Anthropology and Health, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Coimbra (FCTUC), and aimed to assess the screen time of Portuguese children in different electronic equipment – the traditional ones (such as television, computer and game consoles) and the modern ones, including tablets and smartphones -, as well as determining the differences in use according to the sex and age of the children and the socioeconomic position of the families.

The habits of 8430 children, aged between 3 and 10 years old, living in the cities of Coimbra, Lisbon and Porto were evaluated. Data were collected from 118 public and private schools. Participation rates were 58% in Coimbra, 67% in Lisbon and 60% in Porto.

According to the results of the study, in older children, the time in front of the screen is greater, mainly due to the greater time spent on electronic devices, such as computers, video games and tablets: «approximately 201 min/day. We conclude that most children, especially boys, exceed the screen time recommendations indicated by the World Health Organization and the American Pediatric Association, in which the screen time should be limited to 1 hour (in children up to 5 years old) years) or 2h / day (in children over 6 years) », says Daniela Rodrigues, first author of the article now published.

Although television continues to be the most used equipment, “the use of tablets is widespread and the time spent on this equipment is high, including in children aged 3 years”, notes the researcher, also stressing that the screen time “is always higher in children from families of lower socioeconomic status, regardless of age, sex, or type of equipment”.

According to the FCTUC researcher, taking into account that screen time is associated with a negative impact on children’s health, for example, less time and quality of sleep, greater delay in cognitive and language development, overweight, etc., these results «indicate that greater control by parents is needed in the access that children have to electronic equipment. This scenario is, even more, worrying at a time when, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, children are forced to spend more time at home, and need to use some of this equipment to access the telescope ».

It is essential to identify risk subgroups and identify how each device is used according to age, to allow for appropriate future interventions. Parents should keep in mind that children spend most of their time watching television, but mobile devices are becoming extremely popular from a young age », concludes Daniela Rodrigues.

The scientific article can be consulted: here.

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