Screen time and developmental and behavioral outcomes for preschool children

Pediatr Res. 2022 May;91(6):1616-1621. doi: 10.1038/s41390-021-01572-w. Epub 2021 May 19.


Background: One pressing question in the field of pediatrics is whether a dose-response relation is observed between hours of screen time and child outcomes. This study examined the association between hours of screen time (≤1 vs 2 vs ≥3 h/day) and children's developmental and behavioral outcomes.

Methods: This study included data from 1994 mothers and children in Calgary, Canada, drawn from the All Our Families cohort. At 36 months, children's screen time (h/day), behavior problems, developmental milestones, and vocabulary acquisition were assessed via maternal report. Socio-demographic factors and baseline levels of performance at 24 months were included as covariates.

Results: Compared to ≤1 h/day (47%; n = 935), children using screens 2 h (36%; n = 725) or ≥3 h/day (17%; n = 333) had an increased likelihood of reported behavioral problems (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 1.30-1.90), delayed achievement of developmental milestones (AOR 1.41-1.68), and poorer vocabulary acquisition (AOR 1.94).

Conclusions: At 36 months, an association was observed between screen time and children's developmental, language, and behavioral outcomes, suggesting that duration of screen time is associated with poor child development outcomes. Findings provide support for screen time guidelines and emphasize the need for childcare professionals to discuss screen time guidelines with families.

Impact: International guidelines recommend that preschoolers spend no more than 1 h/day viewing screens. Research is needed to determine if there is a relation between screen time levels and child developmental and behavioral outcomes. Compared to ≤1 h/day, children viewing screens 2 or ≥3 h/day had an increased likelihood of behavioral problems, delayed achievement of developmental milestones, and poorer vocabulary acquisition. Findings highlight the association between duration of screen time and factors of child development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Screen Time*