During the Covid-19 pandemic, the amount of time people spent looking at the screen of their television, computer, tablet or smartphone increased across all ages, but particularly among children aged 6 to 10, a recent study shows.
The largest increase in screen time was recorded among primary school-aged children from 6 to 10 years old, who spent an average of 1 hour and 23 minutes (83 minutes) per day more than before the pandemic looking at a screen.
This was followed by over-18s and adolescents (11-17 years old), whose screen time increased by almost an hour: 58 minutes and 55 minutes, respectively. The screen time of young children under 5 increased the least, going up by 'only' 35 minutes.
"This study is the first of its kind to look systematically at peer-reviewed research papers on increases in screen time during the pandemic and its impact," said the study's senior author and professor at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, Shahina Pardhan.
Deteriorating mental and physical health
Researchers analysed 89 different studies from countries including the US, Australia, France, Chile and Israel, focusing on increases in screen time before and during the pandemic, giving a total sample size of over 200,000 people.
"By bringing together numerous studies, we get a much more accurate picture of screen time among the population and its associated health repercussions," she added. "The overall picture provides clear evidence that screen time should be reduced wherever possible to minimise potential negative outcomes."
- Netflix to add more live streaming in bid to attract more subscribers
- Sounds like you? Belgians spend over 3 hours per day on smartphones
- Belgians spend over five hours watching videos every day
Among children, increases in screen time were found to be associated with inferior diet, poor eye health, deteriorating mental health (including anxiety) and behavioural problems such as aggression, irritability and the increased frequency of temper tantrums.
However, an increased amount of screen time not only has a negative effect on children: multiple correlations between increases in screen time and negative outcomes for adults were also found, including adverse effects on diet, eye health, mental health (such as anxiety, depression and loneliness) and general health (fatigue, decreased physical activity and weight gain).
"It is also important that non-sedentary activities are promoted to mitigate the risks of increased screen time," Pardhan underlined.