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Study: Too much screen time leads to lower wellbeing in kids

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There is increasing awareness that too much time in front of the TV, computer or video games can be harmful for children.

Reuters reports on a new study of more than 3600 children in eight European countries that showed family functioning and emotional wellbeing were especially linked to changes in the amount of time kids spent in front of screens.

For every hour of screen time, the risk of family life being disrupted may be doubled, the study found.

Researchers say there are still more questions than answers about how exactly screen time impacts a child's family and personal wellbeing. But the study by Australian researchers may offer new support for what many experts have long been warning.

For one, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than age two and recommends limiting older children's screen time to no more than one or two hours a day.

Too much screen time has been linked to:

-Obesity. The more TV your child watches, the greater his or her risk is of becoming overweight. Having a TV in a child's bedroom also increases this risk. Children can also develop an appetite for junk food promoted in TV ads, as well as overeat while watching TV.

-Irregular sleep. The more TV children watch, the more likely they are to have trouble falling asleep or to have an irregular sleep schedule. Sleep loss, in turn, can lead to fatigue and increased snacking.

-Behavioral problems. Elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems. Exposure to video games is also linked with an increased risk of attention problems in children. Watching excessive amounts of TV at age 4 is linked with bullying at ages 6 through 11.

-Impaired academic performance. Elementary students who have TVs in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than do those who don't have TVs in their bedrooms.

-Violence. Too much exposure to violence through media — especially on TV — can desensitize children to violence. As a result, children might learn to accept violent behavior as a normal way to solve problems.

-Less time for play. Excessive screen time leaves less time for active, creative play.

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