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Association between screen time and psychosocial and behavioral well-being of preschoolers during the COVID-19 lockdown in Tamil Nadu

1 Aster Clinics, Dubai, UAE
2 Department of Pediatrics, Government Erode Medical College and Hospital, Erode, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Physiology, Government Erode Medical College, Erode, Tamil Nadu, India
4 Department of Physiology, Vinayaka Mission's Kirupananda Variyar Medical College and Hospital, VMRF (D.U.), Salem, Tamil Nadu, India
5 Department of Nursing, Government Erode Medical College and Hospital, Erode, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Muraleetharan Gopal,
Department of Pediatrics, Government Erode Medical College and Hospital, Perundurai, Erode, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/am.am_101_22

Introduction: COVID-19 pandemic-caused burden among the pediatric age group was less in terms of severity and mortality; indirect impacts of the pandemic on the mental health of children are huge and largely unnoticed. The main objective of this exploratory study was to analyze the association between screen time exposures among preschool children aged 3–6 years during the lockdown period in Tamil Nadu, India. Materials and Methods: An exploratory and anonymous population-based e-survey through social networks, including social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp) and researchers' acquaintances (email), using a snowball sampling strategy was conducted among parents of preschool children (aged 3–6 years) residing in different states of Tamil Nadu. Data were collected using Google Forms, and statistical, analysis was conducted. Results: Among 427 study participants, the mean age of screen introduction was 19.88 ± 11.73 months, and the mean age of independent operation of screen devices was 3.29 ± 1.16 years. Demanding extra attention (25.53%), temper tantrums (21.31%), increased aggressiveness (19.90%), more fussy (18.74%), altered night sleep (18.5%), and clinging (18.27%) were the frequently reported behavioral changes apart from increased screen time (60.88%) and decreased physical activity (28.80%) during the lockdown period. Conclusion: Excessive screen time beyond the recommended 1 h/day was seen in 94.1% of children, and screen exposure was inversely correlated with the duration of outdoor play. Among the behavioral changes, temper tantrums and fussiness were found to be significantly associated with increased recreational screen time.

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