An excessive screen time could cause mental health problems in children as young as two years, a new study has revealed

Research from two US universities has shown that children with only one hour of screening a day tend to increase the fear of depression.

This can lead to less self-control, curiosity or emotional stability and a greater inability to complete tasks.

In children as young as two, there is a risk that too many screens will create mental health problems (image: Getty Images).

Young people are at greatest risk, with many older children and adolescents using their screens for social media and communication, not just watching television under the age of five.

However, children's brains are more sensitive to the effects of electronic devices because their brains are still developing.

The US team said that identifying causes and outcomes is critical to preventing poor mental well-being in children and adolescents.

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"Half of the mental health problems occur in adolescence," said Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University and Professor Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia.

"There is therefore an acute need to identify factors related to mental health issues that are suitable for interventions in this population, as most precursors are difficult or impossible to influence.

"Compared to these more persistent precursors of mental health, it is easier for children and adolescents to move around in their free time."

Profes Twenge and Cambell analyzed the data of the parents of more than 40,000 US children between the ages of two and 17 for a nationwide health survey in 2016.

The recommended screen time for teenagers is one hour per day (Image: Getty Images)

The questionnaire asked about the young people's existing medical care and emotional, developmental or behavioral issues and behaviors.

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Adolescents who spend more than seven hours a day on screens have been found to be twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders or depression than those who had only one hour.

Preschoolers or children under five who were high users lost control twice as often and 46 percent tended to not calm down when they were excited.

Among 14- to 17-year-olds, more than four out of ten (42.2%) of those who spent more than seven hours daily on screens were unable to finish tasks.

This was compared to a sixth (16.6%) who spent an hour daily and about a quarter (27.7%) for those who worked four hours.

The professors used data from more than 40,000 US children (Image: Getty Images)

The study also showed that around one in eleven (9%) of 11- to 13-year-olds who spent an hour a day on screens were not curious or interested in learning new things.

This was compared to one in seven (13.8%) who spent four hours and more than one in five (22.6%) spent more than seven hours.

According to Professor Twenge, the established screen time of the American Academy of Pediatrics for children between the ages of two and five is one hour a day, with a focus on a high-quality program – something that supports them.

She also suggests a similar limit or about two hours for school-age children and adolescents, she said.

In December 2017, the Oxford team found that the average daily image time for children in the UK grew from just under three hours to four hours and 45 minutes.

Experts warn that "addicted" children may be susceptible to insomnia and obesity and may become victims of cyberbullying while losing valuable social skills due to the lack of personal contacts.

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