SYDNEY — The average time that children under two are spending on electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets is getting out of control, according to new research by Australian health experts. Released on Wednesday in the Medical Journal of Australia, the University of Queensland study found that some young children are spending around 50 minutes a day in front of screens. But according to guidelines laid out by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Australian government and many other international bodies, children with developing brains aged under two years old should have zero screen time.
“We were surprised to see the rapid increase in screen time from the first month of infancy,” author of the study Associate Professor Leigh Tooth from UQ’s School of Public Health warned.
“Children are spending almost an hour per day in front of a screen before they turn one. Children under two who should not be spending any time in front of a screen,” Tooth added.
The study found that for children around three years of age, the average time spent on digital devices was 94 minutes per weekday.
“We need to let people know that young children should not be in front of a screen for long periods because there is emerging evidence this could be detrimental to their development and growth,” Tooth said.
“Screen time represents a missed opportunity where children could be practicing and mastering a developmental skill, like skipping and jumping, over being sedentary and transfixed to a screen.”
“It’s very easy to use screen time with children because there are so many child-friendly apps and games developed for young children and parents.”
“If you give a child an iPad for 30 minutes then they’re going to be transfixed — you can understand why parents give their children access to screens,” she added.
Urging parents to abide by the WHO’s screen time guidelines, Tooth said it will give young children the best possible start in life.
“The guidelines are there for a reason, and that is to protect your baby’s health and development,” she said.
“The fear is that it is these early years where the most negative impact on health and development can occur.” (Xinhua)