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Screen Time Linked To ADHD Symptoms In Preschoolers, New Study Suggests

The dog days of summer are right around the corner, and without the structure of school or camp, kids will be drawn to the glow of the screen. Whether it's watching their favorite YouTuber or playing a few rounds of the latest online game, screen time has an affect on their little brains, or so suggests a recent study. Screen time is being linked to ADHD symptoms in preschoolers and should be a call to action for parents, according to a study done at the University of Alberta.

The study concluded that preschool-aged children five and under who spent two hours or more of screen time per day, were eight times more likely to exhibit symptoms of ADHD compared to kids who spent 30 minutes a day on screen time, according to a report by Cool Mom Tech.

To conduct the study, the University of Alberta Canada looked at children from 2,400 families, and collected data during their three-to-five year doctor check ups, according to the study's authors.

Parents reported a detailed list of each child's screen time usage including television, DVDs, computers, video games, smart phones and tablets, according to the University of Alberta.

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While everyone has their own notions of how much screen time is too much for young children, it's hard to argue with the results of studies like these. Sukhpreet Tamana, a post-doctoral fellow in the University of Alberta's Department of Pediatrics, said in a statement from the University:

Prior to this, there weren't a lot of data out there that asked the questions, ‘How much is too much? Are the guidelines appropriate? Ultimately, will limiting screen time in preschool years have benefits for a child’s development?’ This study gives parents some of those answers.

And screen time seemed to be the biggest risk factor amongst any other triggers for ADHD-related behavior, according to the study.

“The two big takeaways from this study are that children exposed to more screen time, at either age three or five years, showed significantly greater behavioral and attention problems at age five, and that this association was greater than any other risk factor we assessed, including sleep, parenting stress and socioeconomic factors," she said.

So what's the cure for too much screen time? Researchers suggest taking up the motto, less is more. In addition, organized sports and activities helped children socialize and form real life relationships.

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For parents who often wonder how much is too much, the American Academy of Pediatrics has strict screen time guidelines for children of all ages.

  • Children under the age of two should not be given screen time, with the exception of video chatting friends and family when appropriate.
  • Preschool children ages two to five should limit screen time to one hour a day.
  • For children six years and older, work as a family to place consistent and realistic limits to screen time.

Along with these screen time advisories, the American Academy of Pediatric also suggests the following ways to help families curb their screen time and make smart media decisions.

  • Carve out screen-free family time where no one is allowed to use electronics for designated period of time
  • Be a role model to children by modeling appropriate screen usage.
  • Set limits and stick to them.
  • Always encourage playtime over screen time.
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Because there are literally hundreds of other factors that could account for a child's ADHD tendencies, it was hard for researchers to establish a clear cause and effect case for screen time usage, according to Cool Mom Tech.

HealthyChildren.org also has a handy Family Media Use Plan tool, which you can download for free.

But there's still something to be said for limiting screen time for the youngest children in your household. Planning for days when the kids will be home and wanting screen time may just help you curb their constant inquiries about your smart phone or tablet.