Screenplay: Healthy Or Not?
WellBeing|Issue 189
The World Health Organisation has released new guidelines recommending no screen time at all for children under two years and no more than one hour per day for children between the ages of two and four. Of course, banning screen time is easier said than done in a world that is entrenched in technology. What is a realistic balance of screen time versus other activities? How can you manage it if older children are permitted screen time? We take a look.
Carrol Baker

A young boy tucked up in bed touches his lips to the screen and kisses his grandma’s face goodnight. In the living room, twin pre-teens argue over what to watch on Stan, while their 14-year-old older sister monitors her heart rate on a smartwatch after a gruelling workout, courtesy of YouTube.

It’s an ever-changing world where technology is evolving at breakneck speed. And love it or loathe it, kids just can’t seem to get enough of it.

No matter what your thoughts are about technology, you must admit, some of it is pretty cool. Google can provide answers to those tricky homework questions that leave parents scratching their heads in frustration. Plonking a feisty preschooler in front of a screen is a distraction while mum cooks dinner. Allowing your teenage son to binge Netflix at home means at least you know where he is.

Teens and screens go hand in hand

It’s probably no surprise to learn that teens are among the biggest technology users — with the most popular platforms being YouTube at 86 per cent, Facebook 75 percent and Instagram 70 percent, according to the government’s eSafety commissioner.

You’ll find many Gen Z kids scooping their phone out from under their pillow before their feet hit the floor in the morning, and checking social media is often the last thing they do at night. Young children are media savvy; as soon as their little fingers can grip a tablet, they’ll happily tune into their favourite shows. Kids as young as nine are putting a smartphone on their wish list for Santa.

For optimal health, the Australian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Young People recommend kids from birth to age two have no screen time. Then up to five years, a maximum of one hour a day, and kids five to 17 years no more than two hours of recreation screen time a day.

But crunch the numbers, and it’s significantly more. The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll for screen time of 4000 children showed a daily average of 4.6 hours.

Screen saviour

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that is gripping the world, those who saw technology as a villain had to tell worried parents to take a chill pill.

After all, technology was the starring conduit that allowed friends, families and work colleagues to stay connected. While the world floundered in the grip of tumultuous terror and uncertainly, we held tighter to our smartphones, scanning for updates, to see how our world was changing.

Technology sanctioned speedy dissemination of information to the masses, telehealth services provided remote medical aid, those in isolation at home used apps to learn new skills and access fitness programs. Children could still go to school via Zoom apps, and universities and businesses continued to forge ahead in uncertain times in the brave new world that was unfolding.

Now that we are all adapting to the new ways of living with coronavirus, are kids choosing app-based experiences to the detriment of face-to-face interaction with their peers? Many say the scales need to be tipped back in balance. Kids need to re-engage with each other, in the real world. But some kids (and adults) will still prefer to use screens, because in some ways it’s easier.

Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other says some people prefer communication via technology because “real” face-to-face conversations aren’t scripted, so they can be awkward.

There is also concern that with more screen time kids are opting out of physical activity in favour of sedentary screen time. Lisa Vale, a paediatric occupational therapist, says there are valid reasons why parents should be worried. “It’s concerning because if play means predominantly pressing buttons, kids aren’t developing necessary gross and fine motor skills,” she says.

If young kids are using a tablet, Vale says parents need to put a stylus in their hand. “To be ready to write, kids need foundation fine motor skills, like grasp and release, then a dominant hand is developed,” she says.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM WELLBEINGView All

Sustainable seafood

Global seafood consumption has quadrupled over the past 50 years and interest in environmentally conscious fish choices has grown. But which types of seafood are sustainable and how can you be certain? We take a look.

9 mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

Your magic microbiome

Your microbiome impacts your heart health, your mental health, your weight, your immunity and your athletic performance. That same microbiome is also unique to you and has been dubbed the “second genome”. The big questions are, what exactly is that microbiome and how can you make it work for you?

9 mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

Mindful mornings

You don’t have to be a morning person to create a mindful morning routine. By working with your body clock and creating rituals that work for you, not against you, even the latest risers can set the right tone for the day.

7 mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

The rise of the “sober curious” generation

In a society that has long treated alcohol as a dichotomy — either you’re a vodkaswinging party animal or a teetotal, clean-living yogi — a new wave of people are searching for the middle ground. How are they navigating a culture still set on making socialising synonymous with drinking?

9 mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

Tania de Jong _ a healing note

With the voice of an angel, the heart of a lion and the soul of a mystic, Tania de Jong AM leads a varied and productive life. She is a gifted soprano with an entrepreneurial flair and a passion for giving. Having built numerous businesses, performed in countless venues, released many CDs and established three charities, her latest vision is to transform the treatment of mental illness in Australia.

10+ mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

Conscious parenting

Conscious parenting is a radically diff erent approach to raising children that can be healing for the whole family.

9 mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

Special Report - Weight Loss That Lasts

Weight gain is both unhealthy and uncomfortable. The temptation is to go on “crash diets” or try wonder foods that promise to strip away the kilos. What the research tells us, though, is that these quick fi xes lead to more weight gain in the long run. Here we discover some sustainable weight loss strategies that will help you lose weight for life.

10+ mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

Yoga For Loneliness

We’ve just farewelled the year that broke and woke us. Feeling a loneliness hangover from 2020? Us too. Need an antidote? Learn yoga’s perspective on loneliness and solitude and a juicy yoga sequence.

9 mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

Healthy Summer Entertaining

Discover some simple tips for healthy holiday entertaining which will leave you satisfi ed but not overstuff ed like your Christmas turkey.

7 mins read
WellBeing
Issue190

Better Skin Each Birthday

With a plethora of anti-ageing beauty products available, it’s hard to know what’s the most helpful and the least harmful. The good news is that by taking consistent care of your skin with healthy habits, nourishing foods and a few smart tricks, you can create a smooth, firm and fresh skin complexion.

9 mins read
WellBeing
Issue190