Parents have been warned to restrict the amount of time they allow their children to use smartphones, after scientists have found a link between screen time and depression in kids as young as two years old.
Researchers at San Diego State University and University of Georgia led a study looking at the psychological well-being of youngsters aged between two and 17 and how much time they spent gaming, watching TV and using smartphones.
Their findings, which appeared in Preventative Medicine Reports this month, showed one hour of screen time a day is associated with a lower level of curiosity, less emotional stability, an inability to finish tasks, and a reduced sense of self-control.
Psychologist Jean Twenge and psychology professor W Keith Campbell, who wrote the report, said: “Previous research on associations between screen time and psychological well-being among children and adolescents has been conflicting, leading some researchers to question the limits on screen time suggested by physician organisations.”
However, using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health from 2016, they determined those who spent more than seven hours a day on screens had double the chance of being diagnosed with anxiety or depression compared with those who spent one hour a day.
While the association was larger with adolescents, screen time still had a significant impact on toddlers. The research found those who used screens a lot were twice as likely to lose their temper and were more difficult to calm down if excitable.
As children get more used to relying on smartphones and tablets, the effect could become more pronounced and could result in poor mental health.
This could lead to them seeking counselling or psychotherapy in Chester as they get older, so they can talk through difficulties and find some support for their anxiety or depression. Approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are also popular, as they help people find ways to tackle things they find challenging.