Connecting the Dots with Media and Well-Being

Well being in children possibly linked to use of media

(RxWiki News) Limiting children's use of television is already one recommendation that pediatricians emphasize to parents. But what might it mean if kids use too much TV, computers or video games?

A recent study found that children using more media tended to have poorer well-being a few years later.

Watching more television was most strongly linked with lower well-being scores in the children, but video games and computer use showed links as well.

However, it isn't clear why these links exist or whether it means that excessive media use causes poorer well-being, or vice versa, or neither.

"Monitor your child's use of media."

This study, led by Trina Hinkley, PhD, of Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, looked at children's use of electronic media and what their well-being was later on in childhood.

The researchers gathered information on 3,604 European children, aged 2 to 6 years, from 2007 to 2008, and then followed up with them in 2009 to 2010.

During the first part of the study, the researchers recorded how much the children watched television, played video games and used the computer both on weekdays and on the weekend.

At the follow-up, the researchers used surveys to learn about six different aspects of well-being among the children:

  • Peer problems
  • Emotional problems
  • Emotional well-being
  • Self-esteem
  • Family functioning
  • Social networks

Then the researchers compared all this information to look for relationships between how much the children used media and their later well-being.

In general, the researchers found that children who had used media more often when they were 2 to 6 years old had poorer well-being than the children with less media use.

In particular, the kids who watched more TV both on weekdays and on weekends had worse scores on the well-being measures than the kids who primarily used video games and/or the computer.

One general finding was that the children were up to two times more likely to show emotional problems or poor family functioning for each extra hour they used TV, video games or the computer.

"Higher levels of early childhood electronic media use are associated with children being at risk for poorer outcomes with some indicators of well-being," the authors concluded.

However, this study was not able to show that watching more TV, playing video games or using the computer necessarily caused children to have lower well-being scores.

More research is needed to understand why the link exists, how strong it is and what else might be related to it.

This study was published March 17 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The research was funded by the European Community and an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 17, 2014