The association between information and communication technology exposure and physical activity, musculoskeletal and visual symptoms and socio-economic status in 5-year-olds

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Abstract

Background

Increasing use of computers by children has raised concerns over the potential impact on their cognitive, social, educational, visual and physical development. Despite this concern, there are no large-scale studies relating the use of computers to specific health indicators in children as they reach school age.

Methods

A cross-sectional analysis of 1600 5-year-old Western Australian children participating in a longitudinal cohort study was conducted to ascertain their computer use, other activities (watching television and videos, playing electronic games, reading and looking at books, drawing on paper and moderate to vigorous physical activity), and specific health indicators.

Results

More than half (56%) of the children used computers each week. Computer use was significantly related to TV viewing (OR 1.97 weekday) and electronic game use (console games OR 2.48 weekday, 1.81 weekend; hand-held games OR 1.88 weekend) and negatively associated with vigorous physical activity on weekends (OR 0.72). Computer use was also significantly related to socio-economic indicators such as the mother being older (40+ years, OR 1.70 weekend, 1.73 weekday), tertiary educated (OR 1.63 weekend) and studying (OR 1.52 weekend, 1.41 weekday). Almost 1% children were reported to have complained of tired or sore muscles, and 2.2% had complained of tired or sore eyes, after watching television or using a computer.

Conclusion

A substantial proportion of 5-year-old Western Australian children are using computers. Computer use was related to other sedentary activities and less vigorous activity. While musculoskeletal and vision problems are not widespread, their presence and the sedentary nature of computer use is of public health concern.

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