EARLY USE OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES PREDICTS HOLISTIC CHILD DEVELOPMENT
Patrick Ip,Nirmala Rao,King Wa Fu,John BaconShone,Ko Ling Chan
The University of Hong Kong
Background : Electronic devices are frequently used by young children despite concerns over their potential adverse effects. Empirical studies have identified the overuse of electronic devices without proper supervision to be associated with a number of suboptimal childhood outcomes, including reduced cognitive ability, academic achievement, and psychosocial well-being and behavioural problems. Nonetheless, concrete evidence of such outcomes remains elusive, and a good-quality cohort study is thus necessary to examine the long-term effects of early electronic device exposure.
Material : A population-representative sample of 514 Chinese preschool children was recruited when they were in kindergarten. Parents reported on their socioeconomic status and children’s use of electronic devices. The cohort was reassessed three years later when the children were in Grade 3. Parents reported on children’s health and development. Children also completed standardised tests on academic performance.
Results : Among the 514 parent-child dyads (mean [SD] age, 5.52 [0.33] years), 411 were reassessed (80.0% retention; 9.35 [0.33] years) at follow-up. There were no significant baseline differences between follow-up and drop-out groups. Use of electronic devices positively associated with body mass index, and risk of overweight, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and behavioural problems. Children who spent more time on electronic devices had worse academic performance.
Conclusions : Early exposure to electronic devices was associated with suboptimal health/developmental outcome in middle childhood. Parents should be alerted for the potential consequences of inappropriate use of electronic devices.
Keywords: electronic device child development academic performance
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