What's the right amount of screen time?
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Four in five parents believe technology and gadgets are good for kids, helping in their development. Wanting children to be tech-savvy is understandable, and it makes sense to keep them entertained if you’re busy. But there are risks to weigh up associated with too much screen time.
Not for toddlers
It’s a bad idea to let toddlers and young children play with iPads or phones. Their brains are hardwired to learn language, emotions and how to regulate them. Research shows there is no productive role technology can play in the life of a child under two years and it stops them learning from the real world. Little children need active play.
Australian Guidelines recommend children aged 2-5 years spend less than one hour per day viewing TV or other electronic media, and children from five to 16 years have no more than two hours of screen time a day for entertainment (excluding educational purposes).
Compared to children who have less than two hours of screen time a day, children who have more are more likely to:
- be overweight
- be less physically active
- drink more sugary drinks
- have fewer friends.
Linked to obesity
In a study of pre-schoolers a child's risk of being overweight increases six per cent for every hour of television watched per day. If that child has a TV in his or her bedroom, the odds of being overweight jump an additional 31 per cent for every hour watched. Preschool children with TVs in their bedroom watch an additional 4.8 hours of TV or videos every week. Up to 43 per cent of children mostly use the internet in their bedrooms.
Research now indicates that for every hour of daily screen time a child’s risk of developing attention related problems later increases by ten per cent. For example, a child who spends three hours watching TV or playing on a screen each day would be 30 per cent more likely to develop ADHD.
Sleep disturbance is another problem. Many teenagers wake regularly in the night to check their phone and one in three teenagers are accessing the internet between 10pm and midnight. They do not always realise the dangers so you need parental controls. You can use controls for most devices to set time limits, control access to games, and specific programs.
No tool is 100 per cent effective at blocking access to inappropriate content. They are a good tool to encourage communication with children about their online activities. There is a great deal of information for parents at www.esafety.gov.au.