Covid epidemic increased screen time among primary schoolchildren

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Covid epidemic increased screen time among primary schoolchildren

Screen time in the Covid epidemic increased the most among primary schoolchildren by an extra hour and 20 minutes a day, according to the first global review of research.

The rise in screen time was associated with poorer diets in children, poor eye health, deteriorating mental health including anxiety and behavioural problems such as aggression, irritability and increased frequency of temper tantrums, researchers said.

The findings have resulted in calls for action to curb the harmful impact on the health of millions of children.

Among those aged between six and 10 years old, the biggest daily increase in screen time was among those aged between six and 10 years old. The global analysis of studies showed significant increases among all age groups, including adults, according to Anglia Ruskin University.

The researchers wrote in eClinicalMedicine, a part of the Lancet Discovery Science journal, all age groups increased their total screen time. Adults, adolescents and young children reported the largest increases, followed by primary-aged children. Adults, young children and adolescents reported the largest increases in leisure screen time, with primary-aged children reporting the largest increases. More time spent looking at screens, such as the television or computer, had a negative impact on diet, sleep, mental health and eye health, according to researchers.

Primary school pupils recorded the largest increases, of 83 minutes a day. It was adults, with 58 minutes, and adolescents aged 11 to 17 with 55 minutes. The lowest increase in screen time was seen in children under five, going up by 35 minutes, although the increase is not insignificant.

This study is the first of its kind to look at peer-reviewed research papers on increases in screen time during the Pandemic and its impact, said Prof Shahina Pardhan, senior author and director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.

She said: By bringing together numerous studies, we get a much more accurate picture of screen time among the population and its associated health repercussions. There are degrees of variation between the research looked at, as with any study of this type.

Screen time should be reduced where possible to minimize negative outcomes, according to the overall picture. These include adverse dietary behaviours, sleep, mental health and eye health effects.

It is important that non-sedentary activities are promoted to mitigate the risks of increased screen time. The researchers examined 89 studies from countries including the UK, US, Australia, France, Chile and Israel. In detail, the analysis focused on increases in screen time before and during the epidemic, covering a total sample size of more than 200,000 people.

The study also looked at the types of screen time and found that leisure screen time, or screen time that was not related to work or study, increased in all age groups. The biggest increase was seen in children between the ages of six and 10 years.

More screen time and negative outcomes for adults are linked to the study's findings, as well as harmful effects on children. These include adverse effects on diet, eye health and mental health, such as anxiety, depression and loneliness, and general health, including fatigue, decreased physical activity and weight gain.