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PLoS One. 2018 Apr 4;13(4):e0193700. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0193700. eCollection 2018.

Cross sectional associations of screen time and outdoor play with social skills in preschool children.

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Deakin University, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Burwood, Victoria, Australia.
Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Screen time and physical activity behaviours develop during the crucial early childhood period (0-5 years) and impact multiple health and developmental outcomes, including psychosocial wellbeing. Social skills, one component of psychosocial wellbeing, are vital for children's school readiness and future mental health. This study investigates potential associations of screen time and outdoor play (as a proxy for physical activity) with social skills. Cross sectional data were available for 575 mothers with a child (54% boys) aged 2-5 years. Mothers reported their child's screen time, outdoor play time and social skills (Adaptive Social Behavior Inventory; ASBI). Multiple linear regression analyses assessed associations of screen and outdoor play time (Model 1) and compliance with screen time and physical activity recommendations (Model 2) with three ASBI subscales. Boys and girls spent a mean of 2.0 and 2.2 hours per day in screen time, and 3.3 and 2.9 hours per day in outdoor play, respectively. Girls scores for express and comply skills were significantly higher than boys (p<0.005). After applying the Benjamini-Hochberg Procedure to adjust for multiple associations, children's television/DVD/video viewing was inversely associated with their compliant scores (B = -0.35 95% CI -0.26, -0.14; p = 0.001) and outdoor play time was positively associated with both expressive (B = 0.20 95% CI 0.07, 0.34; p = 0.004) and compliant (B = 0.22 95% CI 0.08, 0.36; p = 0.002) scores. Findings indicate that television/DVD/video viewing may be adversely, and outdoor play favourably, associated with preschool children's social skills. Future research is required to identify the direction of causation and explore potential mechanisms of association.

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