How much time do your children spend in front of a screen?

Reducing children’s screen time could lead to improved health.

Queensland Health is urging parents to limit their children’s screen time after it was revealed a majority of Australian children are spending more than the recommended two-hour daily limit on their devices.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies longitudinal study on the screen habits of 4000 pre-schoolers through to their teenage years found four and five-year-old children averaged more than two hours of screen time which increased as they got older.

By their teenage years, children increased their screen time to more than three hours per weekday and four hours on the weekend, equating to more than 30% of a child’s waking time spent in front of a screen.

Health and Wellbeing Queensland Chief Executive Officer Robyn Littlewood said parents often underestimated the amount of time kids devoted to their devices.

“We’re seeing a lot more kids on screens, for a lot more time than we think,” Dr Littlewood said.

“As soon as they’re home from school they might be on a screen and they’re staying there, sometimes for up to more than five hours and stretching well into the night.”

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Dr Littlewood said the more time children spend in front of screens the more they were susceptible to unhealthy habits.

“When kids are on screens, they don’t move,” Dr Littlewood said.

“The question we have to ask ourselves is, what is the screen replacing? Time from being active, time with friends…time with you?

“We know excessive screen time also goes hand in hand with mindless eating which can lead to obesity and other chronic health issues down the track.”

Dr Littlewood said ensuring children had a balanced approach to using technology was the key to curbing unhealthy behaviours.

“Try to avoid technology use replacing physical activity, sleep or spending time with others,” Dr Littlewood said.

“There are no hard and fast rules—make it work for your family—make sure you engage your children in the process and empower them to make positive change.

“We need to do this to keep our kids—and future generations—healthy.”

Queensland Health’s age-based screen time guidelines

  • Kids aged five to 17 should have no more than two hours of screen time a day
  • Kids aged two to five should have no more than one hour of unrestrained (as in not sitting still) screen time a day – less is better. Sedentary screen time is not recommended
  • Children under two should have no screen time.