New Delhi, January 30: Children who spend over three hours daily on mobiles and television screens grow up to be less physically active as they enter school age, according to a study.
The study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal, involved more than 500 children in Singapore.
It suggests that adhering to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines to limit screen time to one hour per day, or less among children aged two to five years may promote healthier behaviours in later life.
Screen viewing is increasingly prevalent but excessive screen time in childhood has been linked to a range of health problems, including increased risk of obesity, and reduced cognitive development.
One way that screen viewing may influence health is by replacing time that would otherwise be spent doing something else, such as physical activity and sleep, the researchers noted.
“We sought to determine whether screen viewing habits at age two to three affected how children spent their time at age five,” said Falk Muller-Riemenschneider, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore.
Parents were asked to report how much time the children spent on average either watching or playing video games on TV, using a computer, or a hand-held device, such as mobile phone or tablet.
These screen habits were recorded when the children were aged two and again at age three.
An average of the two recordings were used in the analysis. At age five, the children wore an activity tracker continuously for seven days to monitor their sleep, sedentary behaviour, light physical activity, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Children in the study spent an average of 2.5 hours a day watching screens at age two to three.
Television was the most commonly used device, and was associated with the longest viewing time, the researchers said.
Only a small proportion of children in the study met WHO recommendations of one hour per day or less, they said.