Background: Although an increasing body of research shows that excessive screen time could impair brain development, whereas non-screen recreational activities can promote the development of adaptive emotion regulation and social skills, there is a lack of comparative research on this topic. Hence, this study examined whether and to what extent the frequency of early-life activities predicted later externalizing and internalizing problems. Methods: In 2012/13, we recruited Kindergarten 3 (K3) students from randomly selected kindergartens in two districts of Hong Kong and collected parent-report data on children’s screen activities and parent–child activities. In 2018/19, we re-surveyed the parents of 323 students (aged 11 to 13 years) with question items regarding their children’s externalizing and internalizing symptoms in early adolescence. Linear regression analyses were conducted to examine the associations between childhood activities and psychosocial problems in early adolescence. Results: Early-life parent–child activities (β = −0.14, p = 0.012) and child-alone screen use duration (β = 0.15, p = 0.007) independently predicted externalizing problems in early adolescence. Their associations with video game exposure (β = 0.19, p = 0.004) and non-screen recreational parent–child activities (β = −0.14, p = 0.004) were particularly strong. Conclusions: Parent–child play time is important for healthy psychosocial development. More efforts should be directed to urge parents and caregivers to replace child-alone screen time with parent–child play time.
- Cohort study
- Early-life activities
- Psychosocial development
- Screen time
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis