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The study links the time of the preschool screen with problems of behavior and attention

EDMONTON – A new study links excessive time between pre-school children with behavioral problems experienced by the age of five.

The study encompassed more than 2400 families and compared children who received at least two hours of daily screen with those who had less than 30 minutes a day.

Children who spent several days in front of the screen had five times more chance of showing clinically significant "externalizing" behavioral problems, such as neglect. It was also more than seven times more likely to meet the criteria of hyperactivity disorder with lack of attention, but without aggression.

Alberta Piush Mandhane's Pediatric Professor, who led the study, said screen time was associated with problems more than any other risk factor being considered, including sleep, stress of parents, and socioeconomic factors.

He suggests that the current Canadian guidelines should be far less than the one-hour-hour limit for preschool children and two hours a day for five-year-olds.

The findings are now published in the PLOS One magazine.

Parents reported daylight time including TVs, DVDs, computers, video consoles, smartphones, and tablets.

On average, three-year-old children spent 1.5 hours a day in front of the screen, while the five-year-old spent an average of 1.4 hours a day in front of the screen.

The study also showed that children who did not have the recommended sleeping guidelines of 10 hours per day were exposed to increased risk for behavioral problems.

But those who had more than two hours a week of organized sports were reduced.

"It's interesting that it was not just physical activity that protected it, its activity should have its structure," Mandhane said in a statement.

"And the more time children spend organized sports, they are less likely to have behavioral problems."

The study did not look at the screen content or display type, such as television, computers, or tablets.

The study used data from a child cohort study, a national birth study that collects a variety of health, lifestyle and genetic information from nearly 3,500 children and their families from pregnancy to adolescence.

– Cassandra Szklarski in Toronto

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