Infants’ screen time and later diagnosis of autism
Does time looking at devices predict autism?
Megumi Kushima, Reiji Kojima, Ryoji Shinohara, Sayaka Horiuchi, Sanae Otawa, Tadao Ooka, Yuka Akiyama, Kunio Miyake, Hiroshi Yokomichi, Zentaro Yamagata, and the Japan Environment and Children’s Study Group published a paper entitled “Association Between Screen Time Exposure in Children at 1 Year of Age and Autism Spectrum Disorder at 3 Years of Age” in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Using a large sample of mother-child dyads in Japan, they examined the extent to which the duration of screen time during infancy was correlated with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder by 3 years of age. They found that for boys, longer screen time as infants was associated with later diagnoses of ASD.
Question: Is screen-time duration in children at 1 year of age associated with autism spectrum disorder at 3 years of age?
Findings: A total of 84 030 mother-child dyads were analyzed using data derived from a large birth cohort study conducted in Japan. Among boys, but not girls, longer screen time at 1 year of age was significantly associated with autism spectrum disorder diagnosis at 3 years of age.
Meaning: Guidance on appropriate screen time in infancy is recommended.
Discerning readers will, of course, note that this is a correlational study. It simple shows that two things covary. It may help us to learn what causes what, but it does not show that, for example, decreasing screen time will protect against autism.
Maybe higher levels of screen time ==> autism.
Maybe a prior set of features of autism ==> screen time.
Maybe something quite unknown ==> both higher screen time and autism.
All we know from this study is that there seems to be an association between the two variables, screen time and autism diagnosis.
Kushima M, Kojima R, Shinohara R, et al. (2022). Association between screen time exposure in children at 1 year of age and autism spectrum disorder at 3 years of age: The Japan Environment and Children’s Study. JAMA Pediatrics, 176(4):384–391. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.5778