Are There Bidirectional Influences Between Screen Time Exposure and Social Behavioral Traits in Young Children?

Ramkumar Aishworiya, Iliana Magiati, Desiree Phua, Lourdes M. Daniel, Lynette P. Shek, Yap Seng Chong, Peter D. Gluckman, Michael J. Meaney, Evelyn C. Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Screen time in early childhood has been associated with children's prosocial and behavioral skills; however, the directionality of this relationship is unclear. We aimed to determine the direction of the relationship between screen time, social skills, and nonsocial behavioral traits in young children. Methods: This was a population-based, prospective cohort study with data across 5 time points. We examined the reciprocal relationships between caregiver-reported children's screen time at 12, 18, 24, 36, and 54 months and social behaviors collected using the Infant-Toddler Social-Emotional Assessment at 12 months; the Quantitative Checklist for Autism at 18, 24, and 36 months; and the Social Responsiveness Scale at 54 months. Cross-lagged path models were used for analysis. Results: A multiple imputation data set and complete data from 229 participants were included in the analyses. Screen time at 12, 18, and 36 months predicted nonsocial behavioral traits at 54 months. Cross-lagged path models showed a clear direction from increased screen time at earlier time points to both poorer social skills and atypical behaviors at later time points (Akaike information criterion 18936.55, Bayesian information criterion 19210.73, root mean square error of approximation 0.037, and comparative fit index 0.943). Social skills or behavioral traits at a younger age did not predict later screen time at any of the time points. Conclusion: Screen time in early childhood has lagged influences on social skills and nonsocial behaviors; the reverse relationship is not found. Close monitoring of social behaviors may be warranted in the setting of excessive screen time during early childhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-369
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Volume43
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022

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