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
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.