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Excessive screen time could indicate higher Autism and ADHD susceptibility in kids

Research has unveiled a connection between children's screen time and a genetic inclination toward autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although prolonged screen exposure in childhood has previously been linked to the likelihood of ASD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Edited By: Saumya Nigam @snigam04 New Delhi Published on: October 26, 2023 16:37 IST
Excessive screen time, Autism, ADHD
Image Source : FILE Excessive screen time could indicate higher Autism and ADHD susceptibility in kids

A study has revealed a link between screen time in children and a genetic predisposition to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While excessive screen time during childhood has been associated with the risk of ASD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the findings of this study suggest that genetic factors may influence screen use.

The study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, found that children with a higher genetic susceptibility to ASD tended to use screen devices for longer periods, with some spending three or more hours per day on screens from early childhood.

Moreover, the research indicated that children with a high genetic risk of ADHD increased their screen time as they grew older, even if their initial screen use was limited.

The lead researcher, Nagahide Takahashi from Nagoya University in Japan, highlighted that children with a genetic risk of ASD were 1.5 times more likely to have around three hours of screen time daily, and 2.1 times more likely to spend more than four hours on screens.

Takahashi emphasized that screen time could potentially serve as an early indicator of ASD, rather than being a causal factor, as children with ASD may exhibit a greater attraction to objects than to people. He advised physicians not to hastily conclude that prolonged screen time is a risk factor for ASD development.

The study involved examining 6.5 million polymorphisms in the DNA of 437 children to gauge their genetic susceptibility to ASD and ADHD. Researchers calculated a genetic risk index, known as a "polygenic risk score," based on the size and number of changes in genes associated with ASD and ADHD. They compared these scores to the children's screen time at the ages of 18, 32, and 40 months.

Additionally, the study highlights the potential risks associated with excessive screen time for children susceptible to ADHD. Given the prevalence of gaming addiction and longer screen time in children at risk of ADHD, parents and caregivers are advised to be cautious and proactive in addressing this issue.

The findings of this research can help parents and caregivers develop more effective strategies for child-rearing, particularly for those with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Implications for Parents and Caregivers

Parents and caregivers of children with neurodevelopmental disorders may find these results helpful, especially when dealing with screen time. They should not feel guilty or be criticized for allowing screen time but instead, should explore alternative strategies for managing their children's behavior. 

These strategies should be aimed at minimizing excessive screen time and fostering a balanced environment for children's development. The study underscores the importance of understanding the role of genetics in screen time and related behaviours in children.

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By recognizing the potential genetic influence on screen time, parents and caregivers can take proactive measures to ensure a healthy balance in their children's lives. 

These actions may ultimately contribute to better overall well-being for children, particularly those at risk of ASD and ADHD.

Inputs from IANS

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