What is screen time?
Screen time is the time your child spends watching or using any type of electronic screen. This includes television/DVD/video, computer, electronic games, hand held devices (tablets and smart phones) and other portable devices (DVD players, electronic screen-based toys).
How much is too much?
Australia has recommendations suggesting how much screen time children should participate in each day. These recommendations are based on international scientific evidence about the health, development and academic outcomes of children. Although they recommend an upper limit, evidence also suggests that reducing your child’s screen time as much as possible below the upper limit can be beneficial.
It is recommended that:
- Children younger than 2 years should spend no time watching television or in any other screen time.
- For children 2 to 5 years, screen time should be limited to less than one hour per day.
- School-aged children should spend less than two hours per day in screen time for recreational purposes (not including educational purposes). Screen time should particularly be limited during daylight hours.
What might happen as a result of your child’s screen time?
We like to give our children the best start to life we can. For many, this means preparing our children for school by learning to use electronic equipment such as computers, and learning things like their abc’s and counting from targeted DVD and television programs. Many of us don’t realise that screen time can be quite harmful to our children’s development, health and academic outcomes.
Recent evidence suggests that screen time might:
- Delay your child’s language and cognitive development
- Adversely affect your child’s ability to concentrate in class and achieve academically
- Decrease your child’s chance of maintaining a healthy weight
- Decrease your child’s ability to gain sufficient quality sleep
- Lower your child’s social skills
- Increase your child’s chance of cardiovascular disease risk during childhood and adulthood
- Increase your child’s aggressive behaviour and ‘acting out’
Top tips to reduce screen time
It is easy for us to turn to TV or DVDs to entertain our children at certain times. Below are a few suggestions for other things that you and/or your children could do instead of using a screen.
- Go outside or to the park. It is really important for our children to have as much time outside as possible to practice their movement skills and be active enough to stay healthy.
- Have active family outings – bike rides, beach or zoo visits.
- Let your children ‘dig for treasure’ in your backyard. If they have a designated area and a small enough digging implement (I used to keep a couple of old soup spoons for just this purpose) they can spend hours entertaining themselves.
- Make meal time family time – turn off the TV and enjoy each other’s company.
- Play music CDs and dance along.
- Read stories and books. Your children can make up stories to the pictures.
- Have your child help in the kitchen. Even young children can make a contribution. Allow a little extra time!
- Have your child help with simple household chores – folding & putting away their own clothes.
- Your child could sit and draw or do craft while you prepare food.
- Create a special bag of toys and activities that your child loves and bring this bag out only at certain times to keep it novel.
- Keep your old clothes for dress ups.
- Keep a cupboard in your kitchen that’s just for your child. Let them unpack and repack it (plastic containers work well).
- Keep TVs and other screens out of your child’s bedroom.
- Read a book or story to your child before they go to bed each night. They will sleep better too.