A study by KKH, together with the National University of Singapore, found that exposure to screen devices – such as smartphones, tablets, videogame consoles, television – before 18 months of age, and the presence of screen devices in a child’s bedroom, are associated with elevated sleep disruption and emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) in preschool children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). The associations remained even when controlling for the children’s diagnoses and levels of functioning.

“Digital media have become an integral part of lifestyles in recent years, and the ubiquity of digital devices coupled with poor screen use habits can have a detrimental effect on the developmental and psychosocial well-being of children,” says Dr Mae Wong, Senior Consultant, Department of Child Development, KKH, who led the study.

Conducted from 2015 to 2017, the study looked at 367 preschool children in Singapore aged two to five years old with NDDs such as autism, language delay, global developmental delay, and learning disorders. The study was published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

“Although this study was conducted in children with NDDs, the results from this study are applicable to the general population, and aligned with existing evidence from studies that have been done on typically developing children,” says Dr Wong.

 

KEY STUDY FINDINGS 

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Click here to view tips for parents and caregivers on helping children adhere to healthy screen time.

 

Compared with typically developing children, children with NDDs are at overall higher risk for sleep problems, EBDs and poorer developmental outcomes.

“As this group of children also has more difficulties disengaging from screen use – possibly due to the attractive and repetitive nature of the screen content – increased screen use may possibly further exacerbate these problems,” adds Dr Wong.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS

Click here to view tips for parents and caregivers on helping children adhere to healthy screen time.