Too Much Screen Time For Toddlers Lead To Mental Health Problems

Parents and carers might be inclined to cut back on the amount of screen time they allow children to have after scientists have revealed that too many hours spent on smartphones and tablets could lead to mental health problems later in life.

San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge and University of Georgia psychology professor W Keith Campbell produced a study looking at the impact of screen time in children aged between two and 17.

Their findings, which were published in Preventative Medicine Reports, revealed gaming, using smartphones and watching television could increase the risk of anxiety or depression diagnoses in children, even among those as young as two years old.

They used data from more than 40,300 studies from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, concluding those children who spend seven hours a day on screens were twice as likely to develop depression or anxiety as those who were on electronic devices for one hour.

However, they also determined that even one hour of screen time a day could lead to children with lower self-control, an inability to finish tasks, reduced curiosity, and less emotional stability.

This study could prove particularly helpful for the current generation of children and adolescents, as screen time could be limited to ensure their future wellbeing.

“There is an acute need to identify factors linked to mental health issues that are amenable to intervention,” the scientists stated, adding: “Compared to these more intractable antecedents of mental health, how children and adolescents spend their leisure time is more amenable to change.”

While the mental health implications for screen time was larger for teenagers, pre-schoolers were also affected, as those who used screens a lot were harder to calm down and lost their temper twice as much.

Indeed, Sheffield Council’s senior adviser for early years Maureen Hemingway told the Sheffield Star recently that it is most important to concentrate on toddlers’ emotional development before they start school, rather than their reading or writing skills.

This could be valuable advice for those looking for au pair vacancies, as they may want to focus on making sure the children feel happy and secure.