Strict screen time limits need a rethink -®
Strict screen time limits need a rethink
A pioneering study by the University of Western Australia has shown that despite growing concern about the adverse physical and mental effects of excessive screen time parents were finding it hard to limit the amount of time kids spend on screen-based media use.

A team of researchers from UWA's School of Population Health and School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health are examining the links between mental health and screen use in children and teenagers and found that the guidelines are out-of-date and 'virtually impossible' to enforce.

In 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children under two years have no screen exposure and that children two and older should be limited to a maximum of two hours per day. The Australian Department of Health makes similar recommendations.

However the study found that screen-based activities had become so central to modern children's lives that it was practically impossible for parents to enforce the limits.

"Children and adolescents live in media-saturated worlds where the introduction of newer mobile screen media has afforded them with unprecedented access to the wider world and hence a variety of activities for academic, social and entertainment purposes."

"That these devices have been embraced by younger generations more quickly and incorporated more seamlessly into their daily routines has heightened concerns. Thus the viability of achieving less than two hours per day of screen based media use may be difficult," said the authors of the paper titled Virtually Impossible: Limiting Australian children and adolescents' daily screen based media use.

The researchers said the recommendations needed to be re-considered, taking into account the extent to which screen-based media use differed across specific screen activity, sex and age.

Co-author Associate Professor Michael Rosenberg, said that although the study's results might feel discouraging for parents who were trying to impose screen limits, they should not despair or give up.

"The study shows that it's difficult but you still need to try to encourage kids to limit their screen use," he said. "Even if you're not achieving the two hour limit, you are not failing your kids. If you are putting rules in place that limit their screen use and encouraging them to do physical activity, sit less and physically be with their friends, you're doing all right."

He said that although there were concerns about adverse physical and mental health outcomes - something still being explored by the authors as part of their ongoing study - there were also potential benefits to screen use.

"The message isn't to give up but to try and understand more about what screen use is about, what they're getting from it, and to try and identify within your own family a balance between screen time and other activities," he said.
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