Screen time is the time children spend watching TV or DVDs, using the computer, and playing video or hand-held computer games. It can also include using a mobile phone. Given the opportunity, children sometimes opt for these activities, instead of going outside to play.
The main problem with screen time is that it keeps children seated for long stretches of time. This means they’re not getting the physical activity they need.
How much screen time for children?
Screen time can be habit-forming from a very early age. A healthy family lifestyle includes limits on daily screen time:
- Children under two should steer clear of the screen altogether.
- Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than an hour a day of screen time.
- Children over five should have no more than two hours a day.
Watching more than two hours of TV each day has been linked to smoking, high cholesterol levels and obesity later in life, as well as to lowered overall fitness.
Left to themselves, kids tend to be very active – it’s often parents who impose limits on children’s activity. So try to motivate your child to play and be active – outside, if possible – instead of switching on the TV.
Other obstacles to physical activity
Strollers, infant seats and small play spaces can make it difficult for toddlers and babies to be as active as is good for them. Parents also now worry more about the safety of their neighbourhoods, so children play together less in the street or in parks.
Many new suburbs are also built in such a way that schools and shops are not within walking distance of home. This makes it even more difficult to make physical activity part of daily life.
Busy work schedules can also get in the way of parents finding time to play outdoors with their kids.
Make physical activity part of your family life. Even some chores – like cleaning the house – can get you and the kids more active. Or try including a family trip to the park or local oval in your weekly routine.