The association between electronic media and emotional and behavioural problems in late childhood.


OBJECTIVE: There is growing concern that rising rates of electronic media use may be harmful. Yet the extent to which different types of electronic media use may be associated with emotional and behavioural problems is unclear. This study examined associations between emotional and behavioural problems and electronic media use during late childhood, in a large community sample. METHODS: Participants were 876 8-9 year olds taking part in the Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study in Australia. Parents reported on their child’s emotional and behavioural problems using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and on their child’s duration of electronic media use (in hours: television; video games; general computer use). RESULTS: Logistic regression analyses were conducted adjusting for age, SES, and body mass index z-score, separately for males and females. Males playing more video games had significantly greater odds of scoring borderline/abnormal on conduct (OR 1.07 (95% CI 1.02-1.12)) and emotional problems (OR 1.07 (95% CI 1.04-1.11)) for each additional hour of weekly use. This equates to 2.58-fold greater odds for a male that plays on average 2 hours per day per week. Television viewing was associated with greater odds of hyperactivity/inattention in males (OR 1.04 (95% CI 1.00-1.07)). There were no significant relationships for females. CONCLUSIONS: Given the increasing rates of electronic media use in children, these results may have important implications for child mental health. Future interventions may be more effective if they are targeted at specific types of electronic media use.