Combining screen time at home, school pushes preschoolers well over recommendations

June 3, 2014 by Bri Loesch | CPH Communications
Categories: EPI, Epidemology, Public Health, Student Research, Students, Faculty, Community

Previous research showed that young children were getting more screen time than recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but new research from Ohio State’s College of Public Health shows that many three- and four-year-olds are getting more than twice the amount of recommended time in front of a computer or TV.

Until now, few studies have examined both home and classroom screen time, or included computer use as a component of screen viewing. This study, “Screen Time at Home and School among Low-Income Children Attending Head Start,” considered all these factors using data from the 2007 Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey.

This dive into kids, computers, and TVs found that more than half of children (55.7 percent) had a television in their bedroom, and 12.5 percent had high home screen time (more than four hours each weekday). Television was the most common category of home screen time, but 56.6 percent of children had access to a computer at home and 37.5 percent had used it on the last typical weekday. AAP recommends limiting screen time to two hours per day for this age range.

TVs in children’s bedrooms surfaced as a culprit for being associated with significantly increased screen time, showing that those kids hit the “high” screen time category of more than four hours each weekday more often than kids who did not have a TV in the bedroom.

Classroom screen time consisted almost entirely of computer use; 49.4 percent of children used a classroom computer for more than one hour each week, and 14.2 percent played computer games at school for more than five hours each week.

Erica Fletcher, a PhD student at the College of Public Health, took the lead on the project.

“This research should be used as a foundation for additional studies-- particularly those that look at educational screen time versus entertainment screen time,” said Fletcher. “It’s a critical time to dive deeper into that. Since the data were collected, devices with screens like tablets and smart phones have become more affordable and are increasingly being used in the classroom. That has helped narrow the economic ‘digital divide’ on accessibility.”

Fletcher graduated from The Ohio State University College of Public Health in 2011 with a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology, and is currently pursuing her PhD in epidemiology. Erica's doctoral research focuses on social factors and sedentary behavior and how they relate to risk factors for cardiovascular disease. She has served on the executive board for the College of Public Health Alumni Society since 2007. Erica is currently a customer relationship management analyst for Abbott Nutrition in Columbus, Ohio.

Fletcher partnered with Dr. Robert Whitaker, Alexis Marino Stoner, and Sarah Anderson on the study.

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The Ohio State University's College of Public Health is an integral part of the most comprehensive health sciences campus in the nation. The college was created in February 2007 by the University Board of Trustees. First established in 1995 as part of the College of Medicine, we are the first and only accredited school of public health in the state of Ohio. Specializations within the college include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, health services management and policy, veterinary public health, and clinical and translational science. The college is currently ranked 20th in public health graduate schools by US News & World Report. Its Master of Health Administration program is ranked 14th.
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