Pre-school kids gaze at screens for way too long

Two-thirds of pre-school children are exceeding the recommended daily limits of screen time, a new study by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington has found.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screen time, which includes television, DVDs, computers and video games, should not be more than two hours a day for children under the age of five.

The study, which included nearly 9,000 children from multiple backgrounds, discovered that the average amount of time children are exposed to screens is around 4 hours every weekday, with 3.6 of those hours coming from home. 

That number jumped up to 5.6 hours when combined with normal home time and home-based child care, with 87 percent of those children exceeding the two hour limit.

Children who are enrolled in a child care centre external to the home were exposed to less screen time, but it was still more than the recommended limit at 3.2 hours every weekday.

Children who did not have any child care at all also exceeded the limit, clocking up an average of 4.4 hours a day in front of the telly or PC.

Children enrolled in the Head Start programme, which caters for children in economically disadvantaged situations, tallied 4.2 hours a day, but only two percent of this time occurred during time spent at the Head Start Centre, with the the 98 percent happening at home.

“A majority of children under the age of 5 years in the United States spend almost 40 hours a week with caregivers other than their parents, and it’s important to understand what kind of screen time exposure children are getting with these other caregivers,” said Dr. Pooja Tandon, who helped conduct the study.

The report also linked excessive exposure to television among young children with speech delays, aggression and obesity, suggesting a worrying trend if such a high number of pre-schoolers are spending so much time watching television or on a computer.

“Parents can also play an important role by making sure all of their child’s caregivers are aware of the AAP’s advice regarding screen time,” Tandon suggested.

The full study can be found in the latest issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.