Sanders, T., Parker, P. D, del Pozo-Cruz, B., Noetel, M. & Lonsdale, C. (2019). Type of screen time moderates effects on outcomes in 4013 children: Evidence from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,16(1), 1-10. United Kingdom: BioMed Central. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-019-0881-7
Background: Excessive engagement with digital screens is harmful to children’s health. However, new evidence suggests that exposure at moderate levels may not be harmful and may even provide benefit. Therefore, our objective was to determine if there are curvilinear relationships between different types of screen time and a diverse set of outcomes, including health and education. Methods: We address our objective using a repeated measures design. Children (N = 4013), initially aged 10–11 were assessed every 2 years between 2010 and 2014. Children’s screen time behavior was measured using time-use diaries, and categorized into five types: social, passive, interactive, educational, or other. We used measures of children’s physical health, health-related quality of life, socio-emotional outcomes, and school achievement. The analysis plan was pre-registered. Models were adjusted for gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, number of siblings, and housing factors. Results: There were linear associations between total screen time and all outcomes, such that more screen time was associated with worse outcomes. However, there was variability when examined by screen time type. Passive screen time (e.g., TV) was associated with worse outcomes, educational screen time (e.g., computer for homework) was associated with positive educational outcomes and had no negative relations with other outcomes. Interactive screen time (e.g., video games) had positive associations with educational outcomes but negative associations with other outcomes. In all instances, these significant associations were small or very small, with standardised effects < 0.07. We found little evidence of curvilinear relationships. Conclusions: The small effects of screen time on children’s outcomes appear to be moderated by the type of screen time. Policy makers, educators, and parents should consider the type of screen time when considering the benefits and harms of use.
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