For decades, pediatricians have recommended that children limit the amount of screen-based media they consume to less than two hours per day. However, new research suggests that this advice has gone largely unheeded; particularly among 16-year olds. Instead of irresponsible parenting, we should be blaming laptops and smartphones.
Kids with phones picture from Shutterstock
The old guidelines recommending the amount of time children should spend looking at screens have become unfeasible, according to a scientific study led by the University of Western Australia.
The researchers surveyed 2,620 Australian children aged eight to 16 years about their screen consumption habits. They found that well over half of respondents (63 per cent) exceeded the recommended guidelines suggested by most pediatrics associations. The most popular screen use with all participants was still TV, followed by laptops, iPad/tablets and mobile phones.
Here’s how the results broke down between age and gender (click to enlarge):
As expected, teenage participants were found to be the worst offenders, with 80 per cent of 14-to-15 year olds using their screens for more than two hours per day. Curiously, girls were found to be more likely than boys to exceed the minimum recommendation for social networking, web use, and TV/DVD/movies.
“Of particular interest is the rate at which girls are more likely to exceed the less than two hours recommendation for social networking as they got older,” explained lead researcher Stephen Houghton. “Specifically, by 15 years of age girls were over 15 times more likely to exceed the less than two hours recommendation compared to their Grade 3 peers, and almost seven times more so than boys.”
Prolonged use of screens by children is associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes. (As any badgering mum will tell you, it also makes your eyes go square.)
The report concludes that new guidelines need to be drawn up that take into account the extent to which screen use differs across form, activity, sex, and age. In short, current paediatric recommendations may no longer be tenable.