Preschooler screen time linked to attention problems

Parents of preschoolers know the challenges of keeping their kids from watching screens all day long.

Now, a recent study shows the more screen time little ones get, the more problems they have paying attention.

The study looked at data on more than 2,000 children.

Researchers found by age 5, children who spent two hours or more per day, looking at screens, were 7.7 times more likely to meet criteria for a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, than children who watched screens for 30 minutes or less each day.

Cleveland Clinic Children’s Michael Manos, Ph.D., did not take part in the study, but said for many kids, screens become a solution for boredom.

“Screen time is highly engaging, and children who have not learned to manage their own boredom and rely on screen time to assist them, are more prone to show difficulties with managing attention themselves,” he said.

Dr. Manos said it’s difficult to know whether the attention problems, shown in the study, were a result of actually engaging in screen time, or whether the screen time was keeping kids from other social activities.

He said children need to be able to communicate with the world around them, and if a child is spending hours on end looking at a screen – the screen does not interact like a human being – and kids are missing out on important skills.

“Being able to interact and learn the skills associated with talking to other children, initiating play with other children, and engaged in cooperative play with other children is absolutely essential,” said Dr. Manos.

Dr. Manos admits, easy access to screens makes it difficult for children to avoid them all together.

He suggests parents watch videos with their children, which allows them to participate in the activity together, and help their children build important skills.

Complete results of the study can be found in PLOS ONE.