Too much screen time linked to poorer well-being in childhood

Watching television, using computers and playing electronic games may have a negative impact on children’s well-being, a recent paper claims.

Based on data gathered from the European IDEFICS study (precursor to the ongoing I.Family Study), researchers have examined the association between using electronic media between ages two and six and children’s well-being two years later.

The study, published online this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, involved 3,604 children and used questionnaires to parents to measure six indicators of well-being, including emotional and peer problems, self-esteem, emotional security, family functioning and social networks.

Findings identified a link between the use of electronic media and poorer well-being, suggesting that the risk of emotional problems and dysfunction within families increases with each additional hour spent in front of a screen.  Watching television seems to have a greater impact than playing electronic games or using computers.

Study author Trina Hinkley from Deakin University, Melbourne, explains:  “Using electronic media can be a sedentary behavior, which in turn is associated with adverse health outcomes and may be detrimental at a very young age.”

The paper has already received extensive media coverage in Australia/New Zealand, Europe and the USA.

ENDS/Contacts and Notes follow

Paper published online in JAMA Pediatrics, 17th March 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.94.

Contact for Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Melbourne – Trina Hinkley NHMRC Early Career Fellow. +61 3 92517723.

Contact for Ghent University (UGHENT), Belgium – Dr Stefaan De Henauw

Media contact for I.Family Study –Kate Viggers/Rhonda Smith +44 (0) 1264 326427/+44 (0) 7887 714957. or  

Notes for Editors:

  1. The I.Family Study is an EC funded project under Framework 7 of the KBBE programme running from March 2012 to February 2017. It has 17 partners, working across 11 countries and with cohorts in 8 European countries – Germany, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Estonia, Spain and Belgium.
  2. The study has two strategic objectives:
    (1) Understand the interplay between barriers against and drivers towards healthy food choice;
    (2) Develop and disseminate strategies to induce changes that promote healthy dietary behaviour in European consumers especially adolescents and their parents
  3. The I.Family Study is re-assessing the families first engaged with the Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants Study (IDEFICS), when children were below 10 years of age, now that they move into adolescence – the ‘tween’ years – identifying those families that have adopted a healthy approach to food and eating habits and those that have not. I. Family is adopting a holistic approach by also investigating the biological, behavioural, social and environmental factors that drive dietary behaviour as children journey towards adulthood.

4. I.Family study partners

Participant organisation Lead investigator(s) Key responsibilities
University of Bremen, Germany Wolfgang Ahrens Project coordinator
BIPS – Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention Research GmbH, Germany Iris Pigeot German cohort, statistics
Institute of Food Sciences, National Research Council, Italy Alfonso Siani Italian cohort, nutritional epidemiology
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark Lucia Reisch,
Wencke Gwozdz
Consumer behaviour & environmental influences
University of Lancaster, United Kingdom Garrath Williams Ethics, policy, and stakeholder engagement
Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden Staffan Mårild,
Lauren Lissner
Swedish cohort, family analysis
University of Helsinki, Finland Jaakko Kaprio Familial aggregation & genetic modelling
University of the Baleares Islands, Spain Andreu Palou,
Catalina Picó
Genomic analysis
University of Pécs, Hungary Dénes Molnár Hungarian cohort
Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, The Netherlands Roger Adan Neuroimaging & neuropsychology
Research and Education Institute of Child Health, Cyprus Michael Tornaritis Cypriot cohort
National Institute for Health Development, Estonia Toomas Veidebaum Estonian cohort
Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Italy Vittorio Krogh Dietary assessment methods
University of Bristol, United Kingdom Angie Page,
Ashley Cooper
Physical activity monitoring
Minerva PRC Ltd, United Kingdom Rhonda Smith
Kate Viggers
Dissemination and communication
University of Zaragoza, Spain Luis Moreno Spanish cohort
Ghent University, Belgium Stefaan De Henauw Belgian cohort



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