Children who spend more time on screens may be at risk for autism or ADHD

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A study found that children who were genetically predisposed to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to spend more time on screens.

ASD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been linked to extended periods of screen time during childhood. However, the findings of this study indicate that some individuals may be genetically predisposed to screen use due to ASD.

The results, which were published in the journal Psychiatry Research, demonstrated that from an early age, children who had a higher genetic predisposition to ASD used screens on their devices for longer periods of time—three hours or more each day.

Additionally, even though their initial screen time was brief, children with a high genetic risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) progressively increased their screen time as they grew older.

Lead researcher Nagahide Takahashi of Nagoya University in Japan stated, “Overall, those with a genetic risk of ASD were 1.5 times more likely to be in the group with about three hours of screen time per day, and 2.1 times more likely to be in the group with more than four hours of screen time.”

Given that children with ASD are frequently more attracted to objects than people, screen time may be an early indicator of ASD rather than its cause. Doctors ought to be aware that drawing the conclusion that extended screen time increases the likelihood of developing ASD is unfair, according to Takahashi.

To ascertain the genetic susceptibility to ASD and ADHD, researchers looked at 6.5 million polymorphisms in the DNA of 437 children. Polymorphisms are the presence of two or more variant forms of a specific DNA sequence that can occur among different individuals or populations.

They then computed a genetic risk index that takes into account the quantity and magnitude of the impacts of genetic alterations linked to ASD/ADHD. We refer to this as a “polygenic risk score.”

Subsequently, the researchers juxtaposed it with the duration of time children in a sample of 18, 32, and 40 month olds spent utilizing screens.

Additionally, Takahashi cautioned against overexposing kids with ADHD to screens on their devices.

“Our findings imply that children who are susceptible to ADHD may also be at risk for excessive screen time, particularly given the prevalence of game addiction. Given that children who are more prone to ADHD typically have longer screen times, he advised parents and caregivers to exercise caution and make a commitment to limit screen time before it becomes an issue.

These findings might also aid parents in creating more effective parenting techniques. “Parents who allow their kids to use screens may feel bad about it or receive negative feedback from others,” added Takahashi.

“Yet, we would advise providing caregivers with assistance, such as alternative behavioural management techniques.”

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