Screen time guidelines out of date: researchers

The  recommended two-hour screen-time limit for children is outdated, unrealistic and virtually impossible to enforce, say researchers from the University of Western Australia.

Their study of more than 2600 students across 25 Australian public and private schools shows that on average 63% exceed the recommended guidelines of less than two hours.

They are not surprised. “After all young Australians use screens for homework, social media and entertainment,” they write.

The most popular type of screen use among 8-16 year-olds is TV, with 90% reporting use in the past week, followed by a laptop (59%), tablet (58%) and mobile phone (57%).

The amount of screen use varies by age groups, with 45% of eight year olds and 80% of 14-15 year olds exceeding the guidelines.

Boys are more likely to exceed the recommendation when playing computer games, while girls are more likely to do so through social networking, web use and TV, DVDs and movies.

“The results challenge the currency of the recommended two-hour limit of screen time and whether children can meet it - or whether they should,” write the researchers.

Co-author Associate Professor Michael Rosenberg, of UWA’s School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, says that although the study’s results might feel discouraging for parents who are trying to impose screen limits, they should not despair.

He says the message isn’t to give up but to try and understand more about what screen use is about, what kids are getting from it, and to try to identify a balance between screen time and other activities.