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How much screen time is too much?

More than ever before, our lives are spent in front of screens. We use them for work, play, socialising and even running errands. Our children can be exposed to screens from infancy and therein begins a lifelong relationship with technology. While electronic devices can present opportunities for learning, it can be challenging to know how much screen time is too much.

One of the problems with spending too much time in front of a screen is that it takes away from other learning and development opportunities. Spending hours on a tablet or watching TV can mean that children spend less time playing, exploring, and learning about the world around them. It also often means that they are spending less time socialising and having meaningful interactions with their families and other children.

In fact, according to the Department of Health, evidence suggests that excessive TV watched in the first two years of life may be connected with delays in language development. In children aged two to five, evidence suggests that long periods of screen time are connected with less active outdoors and creative play, slower development of language skills, poor social skills, and an increased risk of being overweight.

While there is no hard and fast rule, the Department of Health’s Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines suggest the following guidelines for children:

● Infants (birth to one year) should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media.

● For toddlers under two, screen time is not recommended.

● For children aged two to five years, screen time should be no more than 1 hour in total throughout the 24-hour period - less is better.

● For children aged 5 to 17, limit sedentary recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day.

Of course, it’s almost impossible to avoid screen time entirely; in today’s age it may be helpful for children to learn how to interact appropriately with technology, including learning how to self-regulate the hours that they spend in front of a screen.

According to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner “the right amount of screen time can depend on a range of factors like your child’s age and maturity, the kind of content that they are consuming, their learning needs and your family routine.”

“It can be easy to focus on the clock, but the quality and nature of what they are doing online, and your involvement are just as important.”

It’s essential to find a balance between time spent in front of a screen and time spent being active, learning and interacting with family and the outside world.

One way to do this is to ensure that children are spending a significant period of time everyday playing, being active, socialising, learning and of course, getting enough sleep. It may be worthwhile to encourage your child to seek other sources of entertainment, like books, playing games, playing with toys and spending time outside.

It’s also worth ensuring that the time they do spend online is positive, and where possible, social and/or educational. Keep an eye on their screen-based activities and perhaps consider making it a family activity with interaction and play. Older children may also benefit from a schedule that includes plenty of off-screen time, particularly in the hours leading up to bedtime.

For more advice and information, read the Department of Health’s guidelines or visit the Office of the eSafety Commissioner website.

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Acknowledgement of Country

Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.