24 November 2023

Describing “for the first time in France the evolution of screen time of children between 2 and 5 and a half years in the country”a study published on Wednesday April 12 in the Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin of Public Health France confirms that the time spent by the youngest in front of screens exceeds health recommendations.

The survey details the daily times and the nature of the different screens consulted by children aged 2, 3 and a half and 5 and a half, between 2013 and 2017. It is part of the Elfe study , sponsored by the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) and the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm), the first nationwide long-term study devoted to monitoring children from birth to adulthood: more than 18,000 children born in 2011, followed for a period of twenty years.

Among the main lessons, that of daily screen time: it is established on average at fifty-six minutes at 2 years old, one hour and twenty minutes at 3 and a half years old and one hour and thirty-four minutes at 5 years old and half. “The data from the Elfe study show that total screen time increases steadily between 2 and 5.5 years, with significant persistence of the behavior between childrensays the article. The study also shows that television remains the main screen watched by young children, although its share decreases with age, as children are introduced to other types of screens from the age of 3. and half. »

These durations are higher than the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends not exposing children under 2 years old to screens, then limiting the time to one hour a day between 2 and 5 years old. “At the national level, the proportion of children following the recommendation “No screen at 2 years” (2013) was 13.7%”say the investigators.

Disparities in households according to origins or level of education

The study also finds that these times are higher in families with immigrant origins or a low level of education of the mother. “The mother’s data was retained because of her important role in the activities that affect the education of the child and because there are fewer missing data than the father’s data”, justifies the study.

No significant difference was observed at 2 years old between boys and girls, but a small difference emerges later: at 5 and a half years old, boys spend ten minutes more on screens than girls.

The authors recognize some limitations to their work, including the fact that screen time measurements are declarative data from parents, who may tend to underestimate the exposure time of their children. Furthermore, the
data collection period (between 2013 and 2017) “does not necessarily reflect the most recent situation, especially in the post-Covid-19 era”write the researchers. “Nevertheless, they make it possible to document the situation prior to the epidemic. AT (their) knowledge, there is no more recent study” of this nature.

Without advancing on any projection, the researchers add however: “As smartphones and tablets developed strongly during the 2010s, we could expect an increase in screen time, but that would be ignoring the fact that prevention messages aimed at young children have also multiplied over this period. »

The World with AFP

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