Too many hours watching television and playing video games is leading to mental health and behavioural issues in boys as young as eight.
The new Australian research is the first to show a clear link between the amount of time spent on electronic media and problems in late childhood.
Computers not the issue
Researchers at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute say the study of boys and girls aged between eight and nine foundd computer use isn’t impacting mental health in the same way as TV and games. It also discovered girls seem to dodge the same issues.
“This is an important age group to study, because it’s the age at which children’s use of media begins to escalate,” explained lead researcher Dr Lisa Mundy.
“It’s also an age at which children are highly sensitive, due to the huge biological, psychological and emotional development, which occurs during this phase of life.”
How many hours are too many?
The research found that a boy playing video games for an average of two hours a day has a 2.6 times greater risk of conduct and emotional problems – like being nervous or unhappy.
Boys who watched an average of two hours of TV every day had more chance of hyperactivity and inattention problems, but girls aren’t impacted in the same way. The researchers pointed out that while electronic media does have many positive impacts on children, it may have different impacts on developing boys and girls’ brains.
“It may be that the electronic media causes emotional and behavioural problems – or it may be that children with these problems spend more time using electronic media,” Dr Mundy said.
“What’s important to note is how the nature of the media affects the experience. We know that at this age, playing video games tends to be a solitary experience, whereas watching TV is more likely to occur with the family.”
The study will continue as the children involved in the research head into puberty. Make sure you take a look at our expert tips to getting kids off screens without tech tantrums.