Tuesday October 19, 2010

Study: Too Much Screen Time Linked to Psychological Difficulties, even for Physically Active Kids

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

BRISTOL, UK, October 19, 2010 ( – A new study conducted at the University of Bristol has found that too much TV and computer screen time is bad for children, regardless of how much physical activity they get.

Previous research has shown that too much screen time has an adverse effect on children’s mental well-being, but whether the lack of physical exercise and long periods of sitting still significantly contributed to this was not clear.

Dr. Angie Page, from the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Bristol in England, and colleagues, asked 1013 children aged 10 and 11 to wear accelerometers for seven days, to measure how much they moved, and to self-report average daily television hours and computer use outside of school and homework.

The children then completed a “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire,” which is designed to measure psychological difficulties such as hyperactivity, inattention, social problems and conduct issues.

The researchers found that those kids who spent more than two hours a day watching TV were 61% more likely than children with less screen time to have increased psychological difficulties.

More than two hours per day using a computer for activities other than homework was associated with 59% greater likelihood of psychological problems.

Unexpectedly however, those children who were measured to have been moderately or vigorously active for an hour or more each day during the test were not shown to have substantially lower psychological difficulties.

The physically active kids who had 2 hours or more of TV or computer screen time were still 54 percent and 48 percent more likely, respectively, to have psychological problems.

“These data support some restriction of screen entertainment use irrespective of levels of physical activity and indicate that guidelines for both sedentary and physical activity behavior are warranted,” Dr. Page and her colleagues concluded.

The researchers also noted that screen time (or sedentary time), and sedentary behaviors such as reading or socializing, which “may have a beneficial impact on psychological well-being,” must be considered and studied separately.

“The weak association between sedentary time and screen entertainment found here and in other studies supports the view that sedentary time and sedentary behaviors are different constructs,” the researchers wrote, adding that, “Additional studies are necessary to confirm the relationship between sedentary time and psychological difficulties and should include sedentary activities that may have a beneficial impact on psychological well-being (for example, socializing and reading), as well as those that have a negative impact.”

This research, titled “Children’s Screen Viewing is Related to Psychological Difficulties Irrespective of Physical Activity,” was published online Oct. 11 in “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

An abstract, with links to the full text of the study, is available here.

See related LSN article:

Study: Mental Health Deteriorates With Increased Television

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