The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between screen time from ages 2 to 4 years and child neurodevelopment at age 4.
The participants were from the 2004 (N = 3787) and 2015 (N = 3604) Pelotas (Brazil) birth cohort studies. Childhood neurodevelopment was assessed at age 4 using the Battelle Development Inventory. The time children spent on screen devices was reported by their guardians at ages 2 and 4 years. Linear regression models were used to investigate the association of: (i) time spent on television at ages 2 and 4 years; (ii) time spent on other screens at age 4; and (iii) total screen time at age 4 (television + other screens) with childhood neurodevelopment at age 4.
Average daily screen time among children born in 2004 and those born in 2005 aged 4 years were 3.4 (SD: 2.4) and 4.4 h (SD: 2.9), respectively. Overall, few associations of very small magnitude between screen time and child neurodevelopment were observed. Television time at 2 years of age was statistically associated with lower neurodevelopment at 4 years of age in the 2015 cohort (β = −0.30, 95%CI = −0.55; −0.05). Conversely, television time (β = 0.17, 95%CI = 0.07, 0.26) and total screen time (β = 0.22, 95%CI = 0.13, 0.31) at age 4 were associated with higher neurodevelopment at age 4 in the 2004 cohort.
The findings of this study suggest that the amount of time spent on screen devices might not be associated with neurodevelopment of children under 5 years of age. The small magnitude and inconsistencies in the direction of associations did not find evidence to support the current guidelines for screen time at this age. Therefore, more studies, especially those with longitudinal data, are important to comprehend the true effect of screen time on neurodevelopment and other health outcomes.