The latest Australian Child Health Poll has shown that the majority of Australian children, across all age groups, are exceeding the current national recommended guidelines for screen time.
Almost all Australian teenagers, two thirds, of primary school-aged children and over a third of pre-schoolers have their own mobile device, with most teenagers and one in six primary children also having their own social media accounts.
Current Australian guidelines state that children under two years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media. They recommend electronic media use for entertainment purposes be limited to a maximum of one hour per day for children aged between two and five, and a maximum of two hours per day for children aged five to seventeen years.
Tough, right?! Most parents will tell you that screen usage is a daily battle in their household, and the Poll shows that two thirds of parents report family conflict due to the use of screen-based devices.
So why does it matter so much? Apart from the conflict between family members, a third of all children were reported by parents to display oppositional behaviours in relation to screen usage. A quarter of children experience a lack of physical activity and this in turn correlates with unhealthy weight gain.
Cyberbullying is another concern, with 1 in 10 children reported by their parents as having experienced online bullying or harassment – this was worse in the group using social media, those using screens without adult supervision and those on screens at bedtime.
Screen time at bedtime is also associated with sleep difficulties. The content viewed prior to sleep, as well as the blue light emitted by devices can induce alertness and make getting to sleep difficult. In view of this, recent guidelines suggest no screens for an hour before bedtime, and no devices in the bedroom.
So what can be done? Setting limits on time and content is a good idea, as is supervision, and talking to older children about what they are watching and when they are watching it. For further information about resources that can help, speak to your GP.
This article was written by Dr. Lucy Rosman, and published in the Western Suburbs Weekly.