Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Truth about Screen Time and Kids’ Health

By Tim Olds

A number of health outcomes have been attributed to the amount of time children spend in front of screens, but look a little deeper and a different picture emerges.

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

The average Australian adolescent spends about 4 hours each day in front of a screen of some sort. A typical home now has three TVs, three laptops and two videogame consoles, and kids’ bedrooms resemble electronics display rooms. About one-third of Australian kids aged 9–11 have a TV in their bedroom (that’s only half of what we find in the US).

Kids with TVs in their bedrooms watch 3 hours more TV each week than kids who don’t. They also get 45 minutes less physical activity each week, an hour’s less sleep, and spend an hour more on the computer. They snack more in front of the TV, eat more fast food and consume more soft drinks, are 10% fatter, have larger waists, less self-confidence in being physically active, lower health-related quality of life, and their NAPLAN scores are on average 30 points lower.

Now consider the reasons why.

TV keeps kids awake at night, encourages unmindful snacking, keeps them inside where they’re less active, replaces real social interaction (like talking face-to-face) with the virtual world, and exposes them to pornography and violence (or worse, Friends).

Halve their television use, as US researcher David Epstein did in 2008 by using electronic monitoring devices (tinyurl.com/plys9qe), and they eat 400 kJ less each day and lose weight relative to their unrestricted peers. This may be why only 15% of thin...

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