Screen-time is associated with inattention problems in preschoolers: Results from the CHILD birth cohort study

PLoS One. 2019 Apr 17;14(4):e0213995. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213995. eCollection 2019.


Background: Pre-school children spend an average of two-hours daily using screens. We examined associations between screen-time on pre-school behavior using data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study.

Methods: CHILD participant parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) at five-years of age. Parents reported their child's total screen-time including gaming and mobile devices. Screen-time was categorized using the recommended threshold of two-hours/day for five-years or one-hour/day for three-years. Multiple linear regression examined associations between screen-time and externalizing behavior (e.g. inattention and aggression). Multiple logistic regression identified characteristics of children at risk for clinically significant externalizing problems (CBCL T-score≥65).

Results: Screen-time was available for over 95% of children (2,322/2,427) with CBCL data. Mean screen-time was 1·4 hours/day (95%CI 1·4, 1·5) at five-years and 1·5 hours/day (95%CI: 1·5, 1·6) at three-years. Compared to children with less than 30-minutes/day screen-time, those watching more than two-hours/day (13·7%) had a 2·2-point increase in externalizing T-score (95%CI: 0·9, 3·5, p≤0·001); a five-fold increased odd for reporting clinically significant externalizing problems (95%CI: 1·0, 25·0, p = 0·05); and were 5·9 times more likely to report clinically significant inattention problems (95%CI: 1·6, 21·5, p = 0·01). Children with a DSM-5 ADHD T-score above the 65 clinical cut-off were considered to have significant ADHD type symptoms (n = 24). Children with more than 2-hours of screen-time/day had a 7·7-fold increased risk of meeting criteria for ADHD (95%CI: 1·6, 38·1, p = 0·01). There was no significant association between screen-time and aggressive behaviors (p>0.05).

Conclusion: Increased screen-time in pre-school is associated with worse inattention problems.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression*
  • Canada
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parents

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