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Your family health hotline

Spending too much time in front of a TV, smart device or computer can be harmful to a child’s development. Sydney Local Health District’s experts talk us through the reasons why, and what you can do instead.

Cutting down on screen time

“Too much screen time can be a barrier to children developing communication skills” says Speech Pathologist Jess Figueira. “The issue with screens, videos and apps is that although they can teach a lot of skills and information, they can’t teach a child how to interact with other people or how to have a conversation.”

Occupational Therapist Britt Woolfenden describes it as one-way interaction. “There’s no opportunity for speech and language development. There’s no social interaction, no sharing, no turn taking.”

Ms Woolfenden says one way to cut down on screen time is to simply turn the TV off. “A lot of parents say the TV at home is just on during the day, in the background, and they don’t even realise.”

It is important for parents to know that screen time isn’t just watching TV. It also includes using phone apps, computers, video consoles and tablets.

Sitting down to use any of these devices reduces the time children spend being active, which can contribute to children becoming overweight.

It’s recommended children aged between two and five-years old have no more than an hour of screen time each day, under supervision. Before the age of two, children should spend no time watching TV (or other screens) at all.

But how do we keep the kids away from the screens and interested in other things? It’s not as hard as you might think.

A lot of parents turn the TV or iPad on to entertain children while they get things done, like cooking dinner, but Dr Greer Bennett from Sydney Local Health District’s Health Promotion Unit suggests getting them involved.

“Put a young child in the high chair close to the kitchen bench so they can watch what you are doing.”

“When they get older they can learn to chop soft vegetables for the meal – using a blunt knife”.

For other household chores, little ones could help by passing you pegs or helping to sort the washing.

When it comes to reducing screen time, Dr Bennett says parents can lead by example. “Think about your own use of phones and computers. Try to check messages and social media when children aren’t around.”

Click here for more information on screen time from our Healthy Beginnings team.



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Page Last Updated: 17 January, 2018