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First NZ Study on effects of screen-time on pre-school children

January 25, 2019 at 9:25 AM



Obesity, poorer motor skills, hyperactivity problems and poor sleep are just some of the effects that may be experienced by pre-school children who exceed New Zealand’s screen-time guidelines, according to a study funded by the Ministry of Social Development’s Children and Families Research Fund.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni welcomed the report, the first to analyse New Zealand data, saying its findings show that adhering to the government’s screen time guidelines is linked to better health profiles in New Zealand children.

“Until now, we’ve had to rely on overseas evidence about the effects of screen time on pre-schoolers. This new report provides robust local data that supports the Ministry of Health’s Active Play Guidelines for under-fives,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

The Ministry of Health Guidelines are:

  • no sedentary screen time for children younger than 2 years
  • less than an hour each day for children aged between 2 and 5 years

Researchers at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the University of Auckland analysed screen-time data from more than 5,000 participants from the Growing Up in New Zealand study 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.

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Category: Research