Many literature reviews summarized relationships between screen time and child health, but they only included a few studies conducted in Chinese children and adolescents. The potential influence of screen time may vary by social context. The current systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate relationships between screen time and health issues among Chinese school-aged children and adolescents.
Peer-reviewed articles written in Chinese and English were retrieved from CNKI, Wanfang, PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science from inception to June 2020. The Downs & Black checklist was applied to assess study quality. Meta analyses used random effect models and mixed effects model to calculate pooled adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals. Heterogeneity, sensitivity, and publication bias were assessed using Q and I statistics, “one-study removed” analysis, the funnel plot, trim and fill analysis, and classical fail-safe N, respectively.
In total, we identified 252 articles reporting 268 studies with unique samples. These studies investigated relationships between screen time and health issues of adiposity, myopia, psycho-behavioral problems, poor academic performance, cardiometabolic disease risks, sleep disorder, poor physical fitness, musculoskeletal injury, sub-health, and miscellaneous issues of height and pubertal growth, injury, sick leave, and respiratory symptoms. Proportions of studies reporting positive relationships with screen time were lowest in adiposity (50.6%) and higher in myopia (59.2%) and psycho-behavioral problems (81.8%). Other health issues were examined in 10 or less studies, all of which had more than half showing positive relationships. The pooled odds ratio from 19 studies comparing health risks with the screen time cutoff of 2 hours per day was 1.40 (95% CI: 1.31 to 1.50, I = 85.9%). The pooled effect size was 1.29 (95% CI: 1.20 to 1.39) after trimming 7 studies for publication bias adjustments.
Findings exclusively generated from Chinese school-aged children and adolescents resonate those mainly from western countries. Evidence suggests that higher levels of screen time are related with greater risks of various health issues, although the relationships appear to be weak and intertwined with other confounding factors. Future studies need to investigate health-specific dose effects and mechanisms of screen time.

© 2022. The Author(s).