More screen time for children leads to obesity: research

Source:Xinhua Published: 2019/1/18 20:39:50

Obesity, poorer motor skills, hyperactivity problems and poor sleep are just some of the effects that may be experienced by preschool children who exceed New Zealand's screen-time guidelines, according to study findings released on Friday.

The study, which is the first to analyze New Zealand data, showed that adhering to the government's screen time guidelines is linked to better health profiles in New Zealand children.

Researchers at the Auckland University of Technology and the University of Auckland analyzed screen-time data from more than 5,000 participants as they aged from 24 to 54 months.

They found that the average time preschool children spent using screens is about 1.5 hours each day at 2 years of age, increasing to two hours per day when children were 3.75 years of age.

This study showed that children who exceeded the one hour per day screen time guidelines at age 2 years, are more likely to be obese, visit the doctor more, have lower physical motor skills, and may exhibit hyperactivity problems when they reached around 4.5 years.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni welcomed the report, saying, "Until now, we've had to rely on overseas evidence about the effects of screen time on preschoolers."

This new report provides robust local data that supports the Ministry of Health's Active Play Guidelines for under-fives, Sepuloni said in a statement.

The Ministry of Health Guidelines suggest no sedentary screen time for children younger than 2 years, and less than an hour each day for children aged between 2 and 5 years.

"Children have unprecedented access to screen-based devices, from smart phones to televisions and tablets. While some screen time can be beneficial for learning, that time needs to be balanced with regular physical activity and outside play, which we know are key to children's development," Sepuloni said.

The findings will raise awareness among parents and carers about the importance of limiting young children's screen time, she said.

The study was funded by the Ministry of Social Development's Children and Families Research Fund.

Posted in: DISCOVERY

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