Importance: Identifying associations between preschool-aged children's electronic media use and their later well-being is essential to supporting positive long-term outcomes.
Objective: To investigate possible dose-response associations of young children's electronic media use with their later well-being.
Design, setting, and participants: The IDEFICS (Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants) study is a prospective cohort study with an intervention component. Data were collected at baseline from September 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008, and at follow-up from September 1, 2009, through May 31, 2010, in 8 European countries participating in the IDEFICS study. This investigation is based on 3604 children aged 2 to 6 years who participated in the longitudinal component of the IDEFICS study only and not in the intervention.
Exposure: Early childhood electronic media use.
Main outcomes and measures: The following 6 indicators of well-being from 2 validated instruments were used as outcomes at follow-up: Peer problems and Emotional problems subscales from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and Emotional well-being, Self-esteem, Family functioning, and Social networks subscales from the KINDLR (Questionnaire for Measuring Health-Related Quality of Life in Children and Adolescents-Revised Version). Each scale was dichotomized to identify those children at risk for poorer outcomes. Indicators of electronic media use (weekday and weekend television and electronic game [e-game]/computer use) from baseline were used as predictors.
Results: Associations varied between boys and girls; however, associations suggested that increased levels of electronic media use predicted poorer well-being outcomes. Television viewing on weekdays or weekends was more consistently associated with poorer outcomes than e-game/computer use. Across associations, the likelihood of adverse outcomes in children ranged from a 1.2- to 2.0-fold increase for emotional problems and poorer family functioning for each additional hour of television viewing or e-game/computer use depending on the outcome examined.
Conclusions and relevance: Higher levels of early childhood electronic media use are associated with children being at risk for poorer outcomes with some indicators of well-being. Further research is required to identify potential mechanisms.