In the age of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, young children are spending more time watching television than ever before, according to a study.
Researchers from Florida International University in the US compared pre-mobile device usage in 1997 to when mobile devices were widely available in 2014.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that television consumption still significantly outpaced mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets.
“There is growing concern over the amount of time that children, particularly very young children, spend watching shows and in front of screens,” said Weiwei Chen, an assistant professor at Florida International University.
“Our findings were surprising as it feels like mobile devices are omnipresent, but televisions are still the most common way for young children to consume media,” Chen said.
The study found that the average amount of screen time in 1997 for children up to the age of two was 1.3 hours while children between the ages of three and five spent about 2.5 hours a day on screens.
By 2014, children up to the age of two were using screens an average of three hours per day — more than double the amount of time.
It was found that children aged three to five did not have a significant increase, researchers said.
This study is unique as it uses written diary data provided by parents instead of general surveys that are often administered at a later date, which may cause a greater parental recall bias.
“The increase in the amount of screen time for infants and toddlers is telling. Our study reinforces general findings that a variety of characteristics, such as education and income levels, relate to screen use,” said Jessica L Adler, an assistant professor at Florida International University.
“Further research is needed, once data become available, to assess changes in media consumption and device use in more recent years,” Adler said.
While there is much concern about the overuse of mobile devices to occupy and entertain children, it is important that more attention be paid to the amount of television they are consuming, according to the researchers.