Kid’s Screen Time Exposes Poor Sleep, Emotional and Behavioral Problems

Author Shirley Amy
November 17, 2019

“Increased screen use in preschool children was associated with parents who have higher screen use themselves, and who are less likely to have house rules about screen use”


As we find ourselves in the midst of this non-stop, all things digital age, the psychological and developmental well-being of children has been called into question. So let us take a look at the research findings from a 2015 to 2017 study involving 367 pre-school children aged 2 to 5, that was conducted by the National University of Singapore and KKH (the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital), and published in The Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics

Preschool Children with Neurodevelopmental Issues

The research results show that under 18 months old infants’ first exposure to screen devices, including: TVs, consoles, video games, tablets and smartphones; along with: “multiple screen devices in the bedroom, are associated with elevated sleep disruption and emotional and behavioral difficulties in preschool children with neurodevelopmental disorders”.

Further, the study lead, Senior Consultant of Child Development at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Dr Mae Wong, stated: “Although this study was conducted in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, the results from this study are applicable to the general population, and aligned with existing evidence from studies that have been done on typically developing children”.

Children With Neurodevelopmental Disorders

When likened to normal developing children, those suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders were shown to have a generally greater risk of poorer developmental outcomes, educational and behavioral difficulties, and sleep issues. Moreover, Dr Wong remarked that: “As this group of children also have more difficulties disengaging from screen use — possibly due to the attractive and repetitive nature of the screen content — increased screen use may possibly further exacerbate these problems”.

Family & Home Lifestyle Factors

The researchers determined that introducing infants and small children to using screens could be linked to: Number 1: The environment at home where shared living/sleeping┬á areas in which family members consume media, also double up as the child’s or infant’s sleeping area. And Number 2: The dependence on screen devices as tools for management, calming down, and infant/child engagement, calming or management. However: “the continued use of screen devices to calm children may over time displace the development of the child’s internal self-regulation mechanisms, perpetuating difficulties with emotional/ behavioral self-regulation and increasing reliance on screen use”.

Global Research Studies

Although it has to be said that appropriate, time-limited, high-quality screen use, generates educational advantages for skills learning and child development, studies from around the world, have nonetheless: “reported associations between early and sustained increased screen use, poorer language and cognitive development, and emotional and behavioral difficulties in typically developing children worldwide. – Increased screen use over time may also further interfere with the child’s sleep quality and development in a negative trajectory”.

Author Shirley Amy

Shirley Amy is a Holistic Health Specialist and professional writer who's published 4 books. Her interests include optimum wellness, mental health, fitness, and positive lifestyle change. She holds University and College qualifications in the fields of Health Science, Nutrition, Mental Health, Fitness, Holistic Therapy and Aromatherapy.