Addressing parent’s No 1 fear

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Australian kids are among the least active in the world and many do not get enough sleep.
Australian kids are among the least active in the world and many do not get enough sleep.

Sydney parents have the opportunity to enrol their children in a world-first study looking at the amount of time young people spend on screens and just as importantly the effects it is having on their sleep patterns and physical activity.

The ground-breaking research being conducted by Australian Catholic University (ACU) will provide never-before obtained data on the use of technology by children, the number one concern of Australian parents today.

The non-intrusive study will involve kids between the ages of 8 and 11 wearing a fit bit-style activity tracker and a sleep monitor which will give a clearer snapshot of how often, when and where they’re using their devices.

Previous attempts to gather this type of information has not been completely accurate as the information has been collected by self-reporting rather than by technology.

Parents of children participating in the study will receive a “report card” on how and when their child uses screen-based devices, whether that use meets national guidelines and how to manage it.

Researchers will then collate all of the data and use it to frame safe guidelines around technology use which could be adopted world-wide.

Australian Catholic University (ACU) Institute for Positive Psychology and Education (IPPE) Professor Chris Lonsdale said technology usage was the number one concern of all Australian parents and for very good reason.

He said despite it affecting sleeping and physical activity very little is actually known about what technology is doing to young brains.

“Parents are concerned and for good reason. Australian kids are among the least active in the world and many do not get enough sleep,” he said.

Only using screens in family areas will help parents keep track of the content and duration of their children’s screen use, says Professor Lonsdale.
Only using screens in family areas will help parents keep track of the content and duration of their children’s screen use, says Professor Lonsdale.

“They’re also going backwards – they’re about 20% less fit than their parents were at the same age.

“These daily behaviours have many serious and lasting physical and mental health implications which has never actually been measured.

“As we all know kids spend an incredible amount of time on technology, often the first thing they see in the morning and the last thing before bed is a digital screen.

“As a society, we’re really playing catch-up with knowing what the impacts are and what the long-term consequences are on young brains still developing.”

Professor Lonsdale said if you are concerned about your child’s screen usage here are a couple ideas to get it under control.

3 Screen Time Tips for Parents

1. Keep bedrooms a screen-free zone. Only using screens in family areas will help parents keep track of the content and duration of their children’s screen use. Screen-free bedrooms may also help children avoid distractions when trying to sleep at night.

2. If children are going to engage with screens, try to be present with them whenever possible. Co-viewing (e.g., watching a video together) or co-participating (e.g., playing a video game together) is one of the best ways to minimise harms, and can let you experience something your child enjoys.

3. Establish a family rule: No screens while eating meals (including parents’ mobile phones!). A special night once per week to eat dinner while watching a movie is fine, but families are healthier when they eat their regular meals at the table without a device present.

Parents/guardians who would like their child involved can contact: [email protected]