Watching TV and playing computer games are common activities for kids, but it’s important to note that kids who spend long periods of time in front of screens are more likely to have poor physical, social and intellectual development.
Activities that involve sitting down and that do not need a lot of energy are called ‘sedentary’.
There are some recreational sedentary activities that are good for kids’ development, such as:
- reading books and listening to stories
- quiet play such as drawing, craft and puzzles
However, these screen-based sedentary activities should be limited:
- watching TV and DVDs
- playing computer and electronic games
- using smart phones and tablets
Why is too much screen time a problem?
When kids and teens spend time in front of small screens – whether it’s the TV, computer or hand-held games, it takes away from the time they could spend playing sport, games or being active.
Too much screen time can affect children’s health in many ways:
- Less physical activity
- Inactivity which can lead to obesity
- Poor sleeping patterns and routines
- Poor posture
- Deteriorating eyesight
- Poor diet and unhealthy snacking
- Poor social skills
- Difficulty making friends
- Reduced motivation
- Reduced self-esteem
- Reduced verbal interactions
- Language delays
- Poor attention span and challenges with problem solving
While computers and TV can be valuable for education and learning, the health benefits, skills and enjoyment that kids and teens get from being physically active are just as important.
Recommended screen time limits
For optimal health, the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend screen time limits for children and young people.
Babies and toddlers (0 to 2 years old): No screen time at all.
Babies and toddlers should not be watching TV or DVDs as research suggests that TV watched in the first two years of life may be connected with delays in language development.
Pre-schoolers (2 to 5 years old): No more than 1 hour of screen time in total throughout the day including watching TV or looking at a computer or phone.
Evidence suggests that long periods of screen time are connected with slower development of language skills and carries an increased risk of being above a healthy weight. Young children will benefit more from talking, singing, reading or playing with other kids.
Children and young people ( 5-17 years old): No more than 2 hours of recreational screen time including watching TV or looking at a computer or phone.
The less time spent inactive in front of a screen, the better their health will be. Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible with playing games outside, doing chores or playing with other kids.