Media Release 20 April 2017
Family First NZ says that a survey which found that Kiwi 15-year-olds average 163 minutes online outside school each weekday, up from 98 minutes in 2012, highlights not only an issue with excessive screentime, but also a lack of guidelines by education and health ministries around the health concerns of excessive screentime use.
“Although screen technology may be a beneficial aspect of modern life, the Ministry of Education is turning a blind eye to growing concern from health and development experts about the disproportionate use in many families’ lives, particularly the young in New Zealand. Parents, children and teachers remain unaware of the medical and developmental risks and the position of medical bodies on discretionary screen time. And the majority of children and adolescents in New Zealand, including toddlers, continue to significantly exceed medical guidelines,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“Yet the ages at which children start viewing screens and the number of hours watched per day is increasingly linked to negative physiological changes, medical conditions and development outcomes including significant sleep disturbances, attention problems and impulsiveness, and children are more susceptible to developing a long-term problematic dependency on technology.”
Family First’s concerns are based on previous admissions to Family First in 2014 from the Ministry of Health that they have only provide guidelines for screen time use outside of school time – (a maximum of two hours per day for 5-18 year olds) – and no guidelines at all for under 5’s or to the Ministry of Education or to ECE’s.
And the Ministry of Education told Family First: “It is up to individual schools to decide the extent to which they will use digital technology to support teaching and learning”, and “The Ministry has not undertaken specific research on appropriate amounts of daily screen time for young people.”
An ASG and Monash University survey of 800 kiwi parents last year found that 55% felt their children spent too much time in front of a screen, and 48% struggled to limit their child’s use of digital devices.
“The government and the Ministries of Health and Education are ignoring the growing concerns from health and development experts and the concerns of parents about screentime for their children. This latest survey about the excessive use of screentime amongst our teenagers is a wake-up call to the government organisations,” warns Mr McCoskrie.
READ the Family First Research Report – “WE NEED TO TALK – Screen time in NZ, Media Use: An Emerging factor in child and adolescent health” (2015) by biologist / psychologist Dr Aric Sigman.