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Top 5 tips for healthy screen time habits

Professor Leon Straker from Curtin University wants kids to spend more time outdoors than on their technological devices.

Straker explained how before the current generation of mobile touchscreen devices, children had to be about 3 years old in order to interact with a computer. Nowadays, children can interact with computers before they are 1 year old. However, he thinks this is a bad idea.

“Current public health guidelines in Australia and elsewhere discourage screen use for children under 2 years of age, and suggest a limit of 1 hour per day for 2- to 5-year-olds,” he said.

Straker addressed the importance of teaching kids to be wiser in the way they use technology. He explained both technology’s benefits as well as a few of its disadvantages. “Screen activities can help develop knowledge, thinking skills and hand-eye co-ordination,” he said. He also explained how the use of technology can advance the cognitive development of a child.

In terms of disadvantages, Straker said, “too much screen use is likely to harm children’s physical and social development and health. The wrong type of content and activity could also be harmful to children’s mental health and social development.” He mentioned that children who sit too close to screens can develop problems with their eyesight. “People who spend more time reading things very close tend to have a high risk of myopia or short-sightedness,” he said. Straker encourages children to be physically active rather than spending too much time in front of the screens.

Straker provided his 5 top tips to encourage preschoolers to have healthy screen time habits:

1. Children should have lots more active play than screen play, in order to ensure a healthy mix of age-appropriate activities throughout the day.
2. Make screen use social, either with family or friends, to enhance a child’s development of social skills
3. Make screen use mentally active by using interactive content
4. Ensure that screen use is linked to the real world; for example, using content that will prompt and enhance play in the physical world
5. Parents should be involved in a child’s screen use by setting and enforcing rules. This is to ensure that children don’t over indulge in screen use and don’t access inappropriate content.

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