Earlier exposure to screens can affect emotional, behavioural well-being of children

If the children below 18 months are exposed to digital screens especially in the bedrooms, it can lead to sleep disruption, emotional and behavioural difficulties later in the stage.

A study by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), together with National University of Singapore, has found that screen habits can have bad effect on developmental and psychological well-being of children.

The first exposure earlier than 18 months of age to screen devices — such as smartphones, tablets, videogame consoles, television etc — and the presence of multiple screen devices in the bedroom are associated with elevated sleep disruption and emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) in preschool children with neuro-developmental disorders (NDDs), the study said.

“Although this study was conducted in children with NDDs, the results from this study are applicable to the general population, and aligned with existing evidence from studies that have been done on typically developing children,” said Dr Mae Wong, Senior Consultant, Department of Child Development, KKH, who led the study.

Conducted from 2015 to 2017, the study looked at 367 preschool children in Singapore aged two to five years old with NDDs such as autism, language delay, global developmental delay, and learning disorders.

It was found that more than half (52%) were exposed to screens / commenced screen usage at the age of 18 months or earlier. More than half (57.7%) had at least one screen device in their bedrooms. Majority (93.9%) of the children exceeded the 1 hour limit of daily average screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). A majority (72.3%) of children had parent-reported elevated sleep problems. Nearly 60% (59.9%) of children had parent reported clinically elevated emotional/behavioural difficulties, as per the study.



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