The following article is part of The Clinical Advisor’s coverage from the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners’ 39th National Conference on Pediatric Health Care in Chicago. Our staff will be reporting live on the latest news and clinically relevant practice information from leading pediatric NPs in many specialty areas. Check back for ongoing updates from NAPNAP 2018. 

CHICAGO—In children aged 6 to 12 years old, increased use of media or electronic devices (screen time) is associated with a risk for mental health issues, including social phobia and depressive symptoms, according to research presented at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners’ 39th National Conference on Pediatric Health Care.

Kimberly Buck, DNP, RN, CPNP, Assistant Professor at Loma Linda University School of Nursing in California, and colleagues conducted a study to determine whether the length of screen time was correlated with academic and mental health effects in children between the ages of 6 and 12.

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Volunteers included 250 English-speaking parent-child dyads. Children aged 6 to 12 with no previous mental health issues were eligible, and parents were asked to complete a survey involving the child’s mental health, media usage, and parental socio-demographics.

The majority of volunteering parents were women (87.1%) with an average age of 35.5 years and an average education level of a high school diploma. Nearly equivalent numbers of boys and girls were included (50.2% boys) with an average age of 9 years. The cohort was primarily Hispanic (79.1%) with 59.5% of parental participants either married or living together.

According to the results, children were not adhering to the AAP recommendations to place consistent restrictions on lengths of screen use. The investigators reported an average screen time of 3 hours in homes with an average of 6 electronic devices.

Children were likely to get less than 9 hours of sleep if they had a television in their room (compared with the recommended 9-12 hours of sleep), possibly leading to sleep issues. Among the 12-year olds in the cohort, 73% used electronic devices more than 2 hours per day; 54% of children between ages 6 and 11 confirmed the same usage per day.

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Additionally, more than 2 hours of screen time was reported in 71% of children with fair academic grades, 77% of children with social phobia, and 90% of children with high risk for depressive symptoms.

“Future studies should re-examine the potential negative impact of excessive screen time on young children’s mental health using larger samples and different pediatric surveys in a more diverse population,” reported the authors. “Furthermore, the amount of screen time related to school work must be explored, since Chromebooks are now becoming the newest revolution in academic learning.”

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  1. Buck K, Dehom S, Khoo S, Lee C, Truax FN. The effects of screen time on school-age children’s mental health. Presented at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners 2018 National Conference; March 19-22, 2018; Chicago.