Owning your own smartphone or tablet is now the new normal for Australian children, new research released today shows.
The latest Australian Child Health Poll has found that almost all Australian teenagers, two- thirds of primary school-aged children and one-third of preschoolers now own their own tablet or smartphone.
As well as owning their own device, three in four teenagers, and one in six primary school-aged children, have their own social media accounts.
The minimum age restriction on most social media platforms is 13.
The Director of the Australian Child Health Poll, paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes said one of the most significant findings, that directly affected children’s health, was the impact of screen use at bedtime on sleep.
“Almost half of children regularly use screen-based devices at bedtime, with one in four children reporting sleep problems as a result. Teenagers using screens routinely at bedtime were also more likely to report experiencing online bullying. It’s best to have no screen-time an hour before bed and keep screens out of the bedroom, to ensure a better quality of sleep,” she said.
The poll also reveals that 50 per cent of toddlers and preschoolers are using a screen-based device without supervision.
“The demands of the modern lifestyle mean a lot of parents are busy, so they use screen use as a digital babysitter. We found that 85 per cent of parents of young children say they use screens to occupy their kids so they can get things done.” Dr Rhodes said.
“There is little evidence to support the idea that screen use benefits the development of infants and toddlers, but physical playtime and face-to-face contact is proven to be critical to a child’s development. If you do offer screen time to your young child, it’s better if you watch it with them, so you can talk together about what they are seeing and help children to learn from the experience.”
When it comes to what’s happening in Australian households, Dr Rhodes said that many families are experiencing conflict over screen use and that a lack of physical activity and excessive use are big concerns to parents.
Dr Rhodes adds that the poll identified a link between parents’ screen use and their children’s use of
“A strong relationship was seen between parents’ screen use and that of their children. Basically, a parent who has high levels of screen use is more likely to have a child with high levels of use. Three quarters of parents of children under six also said they do not put time limits on screen use.
However, most parents told us that they do try to limit their children’s screen use but are not sure how to do this effectively,” she said.
Royal Childrens Hospital Australian Child Health Poll