Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Descreening Kids

By Tim Olds

Kids are spending more time in front of screens, but government guidelines have become hopelessly out of date.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Kids spend a lot of time sitting – about 8.5 hours per day, according to a recent 12-nation study. I feel compelled to mention here that Australian kids actually spend less time sitting than any of the other nations in the study – less than 8 hours per day compared with almost 9.5 hours for Chinese kids. Treasure this, because from here on the news for Australian kids gets worse.

Of those 8 hours, a 2015 study found that Australian kids spend 2.5–6 hours staring at screens, depending on age and sex. The worst offenders are teenage girls. On another 15-nation comparison, Australian kids across the age range performed second-worst on screen time, finishing ahead only of Scotland.

Depending on how you do the numbers, only about one-third of Australian kids meet the government recommendations of no more than 2 hours of screen time per day for school-aged kids, and no more than 1 hour per day for pre-schoolers. Only 8% of 14-year-old girls come in under the 2-hour limit, the main offender being social media.

Is all this screen time a problem? Probably. Kids who spend a lot of time in front of screens, particularly TV, eat more, are fatter and less active, have more sleep problems, more emotional and mood problems and higher stress levels.

There are also benefits. Screens are a way of sharing a youth culture, they have educational benefits, and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.