At the Early Childhood Australia Conference we saw Michael McQueen speak about generational changes, working across different generations, and the impact generational trends has on our work as early childhood educators. He said many things that resonated with us, but one thing in particular has become firmly lodged in our minds… The average eight year old’s daily screen time is eight hours. Eight hours in front of a screen. Eight. He also quoted research stating 1/4 of 3-year-olds accesses the internet every day. And children aged 8 to 11 spend approximately 1.3 hours on the internet.
When we returned we began to wonder about these statistics and how they might translate to a South Australian context. We investigated and discovered that South Australian children have the highest average amount of screen time of all Australian children. So what are the implications of this?
In one study, preschoolers (1-4) risk of overweight was increased by 6% for every hour of television watched each day, and that this accrued. If, for example, a child watched 3 hours of television every day their risk of being overweight would be 18%. If children have a television in their bedroom their risk increases by 31% for every hour watched, and children in this situation watch on average 4.8 hours more television per week. Further, research indicates that children’s risk of later attention-related problems increases by 10% for every hour of television watched.
Studies seem to suggest that the reason children are exposed to such high amounts of screen time is due to marketing suggesting the educational nature of the media content. It is well-intentioned, however the long term consequences for children’s health and wellbeing are significant.
In Australia (Australian Physical Activity Recommendations) the following guidelines exist for healthy screen consumption for children;
- Children aged under two should have no screen time each day
- Children aged two to five should accumulate no more than one hour per day
- Children aged five to 18 should accumulate no more than two hours per day for entertainment purposes (educational purposes are separate)
The above guidelines are certainly far less than children in South Australia are currently exposed to. Screen time and digital media are a complex contemporary challenge, and many benefits, drawbacks and realities exist. For us at Flinders, looking further into this has not so much offered solutions, but many more questions…