The Association Between Electronic Media and Emotional and Behavioral Problems in Late Childhood

Published:December 31, 2016DOI:



      There is growing concern that rising rates of electronic media use might be harmful. However, the extent to which different types of electronic media use might be associated with emotional and behavioral problems is unclear. In this study we examined associations between emotional and behavioral problems and electronic media use during late childhood, in a large community sample.


      Participants were 876 8- to 9-year-old children taking part in the Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study in Australia. Parents reported on their child's emotional and behavioral 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).


      Logistic regression analyses were conducted with adjustments for age, socioeconomic status, and body mass index z score, separately for male and female participants. Boys who played more video games had significantly greater odds of scoring borderline/abnormal on conduct (odds ratio [OR], 1.07; 95% confidence interval [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 boy who plays on average 2 hours per day per week. Television viewing was associated with greater odds of hyperactivity/inattention in boys (OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.00–1.07). There were no significant relationships for girls.


      Because of the increasing rates of electronic media use in children, these results might have important implications for child mental health. Future interventions might be more effective if they are targeted at specific types of electronic media use.


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