Several studies suggest that early and excessive TV viewing can lead to later attention problems and hyperactivity. The reverse is also true: fidgety, restless children are more likely to use digital devices, and parents are also more likely to engage their children with gadgets. The relationship between digital devices and hyperactivity/attention deficit is therefore a two-way street, with bidirectional effects influencing one another.
As only a few studies have investigated this question regarding mobile devices, in this study we followed up on children's use of mobile devices and the development of behavioral problems over time. Parents of preschool children aged 4-6 years were asked to fill in a questionnaire on their child's mobile/tablet use and behavioral problems. After 3 years - when the children were 7-9 years old - they were asked to fill in the questionnaires again.
Regarding social problems, we did not find any correlation. However, we found that the level of hyperactivity and attention deficit in preschool predicted the amount of mobile use in school, meaning that the more fidgety and distracted a child is in preschool, the more gadgetry they use in early school. This can be explained by the fact that parents are more likely to use digital devices to distract or engage these children, and the children themselves are more likely to seek stimulating, intense content.
However, the amount of mobile phone use during preschool did not predict the extent of hyperactivity and attention deficit during early school years. We can conclude that mobile use in early childhood does not lead to hyperactivity/attention deficit, unlike, for example, watching TV. But we need to interpret this result carefully, as the lack of correlation could be due to, for example, the low number of participants, with only 100 parents completing the questionnaire for the second time, or other factors. Generally, we do not recommend anyone to allow unlimited mobile phone use for their preschool children based on the results of this research
- Konok, V. & Szőke, R. (2022). Longitudinal Associations of Children's Hyperactivity/ Inattention, Peer Relationship Problems and Mobile Device Use. Sustainability, 14(14) https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/14/14/8845/htm
The research was supported by the New National Excellence Programme of the Ministry of Human Capacities (ÚNKP-21-5), the Bolyai János Research Grant of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (OTKA K 124458, PD 134984).