One in four parents of a baby under the age of one have admitted their child is spending up to two hours a day ‘at least’ looking at a screen, according to a new report on Dutch children’s media habits.
Children up to the age of six are spending an average of 100 minutes in front of a screen every day, seven minutes more than last year, the annual report by the Iene Miene monitoring organisation said. The research kicks off a national week-long campaign to manage children’s screen time.
This year’s monitor focused on the effects of screen time on children’s mobility and parents’ role in managing screen time.
Media use and sitting still for longer periods of time go together, the report said, and the older the child the longer they spend in front of a screen. Excessive use of media and too little physical activity at a young age can have ‘negative effects on sleep and language development’, Peter Nikken, who co-authored the report, said.
Most parents (89%) said they allowed their child screen time because they enjoy it but 77% said they did it so they could get on with their own activities. Three quarters of parents said they looked on ‘from a distance’ at what their child is watching on screen.
Some 80% of parents also said they were happy about their child’s balance between sleeping, activity and sitting still.
Nevertheless, the results of the survey are cause for worry, the researchers said. The World Health Organisation recommends children up to five use screens for no more than one hour a day, while the under twos should not use them at all.
Researcher Anouk Tuijnman said parents must do more to encourage their child to engage in different activities. ‘Children use phones, tablets and computers, that is a fact of life,’ she said. ‘But it is up to parents to see to it they get enough, and varied, exercise. Plan a cycling trip or go running with your child instead.’
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