In today’s world, the use of electronic media, or ‘screen time’, is practically unavoidable and can provide many benefits. However, it’s also a big contributor to sedentary behaviour in children. We categorise sedentary behaviour as sitting or lying down (except when asleep). This increase in sedentary behaviour means our kids are less physically active than they should be.
Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for children, recommend 60 minutes of physical activity daily for kids aged 5 – 12 years old. They define physical activity as, any activity that gets kids moving, causes their breathing to become more rapid and their hearts to beat faster. When kids don’t engage in enough physical activity, they are more likely to be overweight or obese. And, are more likely to carry their unhealthy habits through to adulthood. Almost 2 in 3 Australian adults are considered overweight or obese. Moreover, obesity is the country’s second highest contributor to the burden of disease, ahead of smoking. Current guidelines recommend no more than two hours of screen time for the purpose of entertainment for children aged 5 to 18 years of age. Furthermore, children under 2 should not spend any time viewing TV or other electronic media. Between 2 and 5 years old should watch less than an hour per day. However, it’s important to make the distinction between screen time for recreation and for education. As, technology is increasingly being used more and more at school and for homework, parents are advised not to restrict television viewing based on computer use for schoolwork. To read more about Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, or to view other age groups, please visit: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#apa512
There are four different types of screen time:
Screen time doesn’t just contribute to obesity through the lack of movement. But also, with the mindless snacking that can sometimes accompany TV viewing. Also, advertisements for energy dense foods may increase a child’s desire for it and lead to weight gain. Excessive screen use has been linked to reduced fitness and increased blood pressure, in addition to other cardiovascular risk factors. Also, excessive screen time has been linked with poor cognitive performance, antisocial behaviour and disrupted sleep patterns. When parents use screens as a babysitter, kids tend to experience language delays and learn fewer words. Also, screen use also has links to poorer social connections and less real-life friendships, causing kids to feel isolated. Plus, there is evidence that the overuse of screens can link to depression, and lack of motivation. However, it is unclear which occurs first, so parents should note excessive screen use as a reminder to communicate with their children about their emotional well-being. More recently, there are concerns about screen use and the impact on eyesight, and the effects of radio frequency and electromagnetic waves. Furthermore, television viewing is linked to the development of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Evidence suggests that for each hour of television watched increases the child’s risk of developing ADHD by 10%. This means that 3 hours daily would increase the risk by 30%.
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommend:
Limiting the amount of screen time means ensuring your child has enough time for sleep, socialising, exercise and other healthy activities that assist in childhood development. Initially, it may be difficult to limit sedentary behaviour in kids, especially if they have formed unhealthy habits for some time. Remember that encouraging healthy behaviours will stay with your child through to adulthood, and the numerous health benefits will make the effort worthwhile.
We hope this guide for parents regarding screen time has given you some ideas on reducing screen time and getting your kids active. Remember that the 60 minutes can be accumulated over the course of the day, instead of in one session, and some activity is always better than none! If you’re not sure where to get started in getting your kids more active and if finding worthwhile activities to undertake in the school holidays is a challenge, then, Australian Sports Camps coaching programs are a great way to sample different sports for a few days each to see what your child enjoys the most.