Early Childhood Electronic Media Use as a Predictor of Poorer Well-being: A Prospective Cohort Study

Trina Hinkley, Vera Verbestel, Wolfgang Ahrens, Lauren Lissner, Denes Molnar, Luis A. Moreno, Iris Pigeot, Hermann Pohlabeln, Lucia Reisch, Paola Russo, Toomas Veidebaum, Michael Tornaritis, Garrath Williams, Stefaan De Henauw, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij

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    Importance Identifying associations between preschool-aged children’s electronic media use and their later well-being is essential to supporting positive long-term outcomes.
    Objective To investigate possible dose-response associations of young children’s electronic media use with their later well-being.
    Design, Setting, and Participants The IDEFICS (Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants) study is a prospective cohort study with an intervention component. Data were collected at baseline from September 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008, and at follow-up from September 1, 2009, through May 31, 2010, in 8 European countries participating in the IDEFICS study. This investigation is based on 3604 children aged 2 to 6 years who participated in the longitudinal component of the IDEFICS study only and not in the intervention.
    Exposure Early childhood electronic media use.
    Main Outcomes and Measures The following 6 indicators of well-being from 2 validated instruments were used as outcomes at follow-up: Peer problems and Emotional problems subscales from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and Emotional well-being, Self-esteem, Family functioning, and Social networks subscales from the KINDLR (Questionnaire for Measuring Health-Related Quality of Life in Children and Adolescents–Revised Version). Each scale was dichotomized to identify those children at risk for poorer outcomes. Indicators of electronic media use (weekday and weekend television and electronic game [e-game]/computer use) from baseline were used as predictors.
    Results Associations varied between boys and girls; however, associations suggested that increased levels of electronic media use predicted poorer well-being outcomes. Television viewing on weekdays or weekends was more consistently associated with poorer outcomes than e-game/computer use. Across associations, the likelihood of adverse outcomes in children ranged from a 1.2- to 2.0-fold increase for emotional problems and poorer family functioning for each additional hour of television viewing or e-game/computer use depending on the outcome examined.
    Conclusions and Relevance Higher levels of early childhood electronic media use are associated with children being at risk for poorer outcomes with some indicators of well-being. Further research is required to identify potential mechanisms.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJ A M A: The Journal of the American Medical Association
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)485-492
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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