Study Finds Link Between Screen Time and Behavioral Problems in Children

A new study found a notable correlation between screen time and behavioral problems in children 12 years or younger. The results appeared in JAMA Psychiatry. 

Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 87 studies comprised of 159,425 children 12 years or younger.  Data were gleaned from MEDLINE, Embase, and PsycINFO databases, and focused on articles published from January 1960 to May 2021. The studies of interest measured screen time and externalizing or internalizing behaviors (the main outcomes of interest), were observational or experimental in nature, and had data that could be transformed into an effect size.

The study found a small, but significant link between duration of screen time and externalizing problems (90 samples; r, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.10-0.12) and internalizing problems (43 samples; r, 0.07; 95% CI, 0.05-0.08) in children. There was evidence of significant between study heterogeneity (I2 = 87.80).


“The findings showed weak but significant correlations between screen time and children’s behavior problems and suggest that methodological variability may have contributed to mixed findings in the literature,” the researchers concluded.

“This systematic review and meta-analysis found small but significant correlations between screen time and children’s behavior problems. Methodological differences across studies likely contributed to the mixed findings in the literature.”