Smartphones are giving two-year-olds mental health problems, study finds

Children as young as two years old can be affected by smartphone and tablet use. [Photo: Getty]
Children as young as two years old can be affected by smartphone and tablet use. [Photo: Getty]

Use of smartphones and tablets could be putting children as young as two at risk of mental health issues.

We have long been aware of the link between screen time and mental health concerns, but new research from the US has found just one hour of daily device use could cause symptoms in children between two and 17 years old.

Effects include lower curiosity, lower self-control, a greater inability to finish tasks and reduced emotional stability. In turn, this can put children at a greater risk of depression, according to the study published in Preventive Medicine Reports.

The findings discovered preschoolers (children aged between two and four) who had a high use of screens – more than seven hours a day – were twice as likely to lose their temper and 46 per cent more likely to be unable to calm down after getting excited.

Among youths (11 to 19 years old), some nine per cent who spent an hour with screens were not curious about learning new things, compared with 13.8% of moderate users (four hours a day) and 22.6% of high users (seven hours a day).

The effect was also considerable for teenagers aged between 14 and 17 – one hour a day users were 16.6% more likely to not finish tasks, compared to 27.7% of moderate users and 42.2% for

The study was published by San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge and University of Georgia psychology professor W. Keith Campbell.

The authors wrote in their paper: “Half of mental health problems develop by adolescence.”

“Thus, there is an acute need to identify factors linked to mental health issues that are amenable to intervention in this population, as most antecedents are difficult or impossible to influence.

“Compared to these more intractable antecedents of mental health, how children and adolescents spend their leisure time is more amenable to change.”

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