21 Mar, 2014

Electronic media use increased risk of poor well-being among young children

By Trina Hinkley, published in JAMA Pediatrics.   March 18, 2014

Poorer well-being in children may be linked to high-level use of electronic media, and girls appear to be at greater risk than boys, according to recent study results published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Trina Hinkley, PhD, of the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues evaluated 3,604 children aged 2 to 6 years (mean age, 4.3 years; 52.4% male) who participated in the Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants (IDEFICS) to determine the effect of early childhood electronic media use and well-being 2 years later. Baseline data was collected from Sept. 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008, and follow-up data was collected from Sept. 1, 2009, through May 31, 2010.


During baseline data collection, boys spent more hours using electronic media compared with girls: weekday television (P<.01); weekend television (P<.01); weekday e-games/computer (P<.001); and weekend e-games/computer (P<.001).

Girls were found to have a twofold increased risk for emotional problems with each additional hour of weekday e-game/computer use. There was a 1.3-fold increase in girls for poor family functions with each additional weekday hour of television watching compared with a 1.2-fold increase among boys. Compared with parents of girls, parents of boys were more likely to report peer problems.

“Evidence is beginning to show a number of detrimental outcomes to children’s cognitive development, language development, academic attainment, and psychosocial well-being as well as physiological health issues from use of electronic media,” Hinkley told Infectious Diseases in Children. “Encouraging parents to minimize use of electronic media during early childhood is essential for health growth and development.” — By Amber Cox


Trina Hinkley, PhD, can be reached at Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood Victoria 3125, Australia; email: trina.hinkley@deakin.edu.au.

Disclosure: The study was funded in part by the European Community within the Sixth RTD Framework Programme as part of the Identification and Prevention of Dietary and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants Study and an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship. The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.