Kids' TV habits alarm researchers

21:34, Apr 10 2014
 Caiel King
TECH SAVVY: Caiel King has mastered electronics with help of mum Yuanita, and alternates iPad time with playing in the yard.

Two-thirds of Kiwi toddlers have their eyes glued to electronic screens for at least part of every day.

The study, Growing Up in New Zealand, tracked the development of approximately 7000 Kiwi children.

It found that 71 per cent of toddlers are watching TV, with 64 per cent watching up to three hours daily.

 Caddell Williams
OUTDOOR LINGUIS: Caddell Williams has never played on an iPad but is a keen talker and an outdoor explorer – activities supported by his mum Laurene.

The recommended amount is nil screen time for kids under 2.

The figures have researchers delivering a cautious note to parents.

Dr Susan Morton, research director of the study, said past studies have linked excessive TV viewing with obesity and behavioural problems.


Morton said past studies may be outdated, given the different electronic media available today, and said interacting with various devices had become the norm rather than the exception.

"It's almost becoming universal," she said.

"We saw one in three of our children were watching TV daily when we saw them at nine months, by the time they're two we are seeing more than three-quarters of the children watching between one to three hours.

"I think the issue is going to be working out what connections, if any, will this have on their later well being."

Two Hamilton mothers involved in the study had differing views on technology.

Yuanita King said her son Caiel is a master at various interactive devices including the iPad, laptop and his mum's phone.

"He's not really interested in TV. He has an iPad and they're really good learning devices," she said.

King said her son has advanced handwriting and is enjoying the various learning applications on his iPad.

"He spends about two hours a day on his iPad, not all at once. It's split between the different activities he does."

Outdoor play is also part of Caiel's daily life, but is restricted to the family's yard when his parents cannot take him to the park.

"It's a different atmosphere, compared to when I grew up in the country," King said.

"Back then we were able to play at the park till the lights went on. My children play on our yard so I can keep an eye on them. I don't know whether that's because we live in the city or whether that was something country kids did?"

However, mum Laurene Williams says she is trying to develop her son Caddell's outdoor skills and has eliminated TV viewing during the week.

"Generally he doesn't watch TV. In the weekends he sits and watches motorsports with his dad," she said.

"They do occasionally watch a DVD but not often."

Williams said they own two computers as well as a laptop; however, use of the devices is not extended to her son.

"We grew up without computers when we were kids and we use computers proficiently now," she said.

"I read an article about a computer executive who said they build computers to be used by complete dummies. So there's no need to rush to teach our children to use these things."

Morton said answers weren't available at present to predict whether the access to readily available knowledge will cause issues with childrens' reasoning.

"I think it does sort of challenge a lot of the ways in which we deliver formal and informal education," she said.

"These children are going to be used to just tapping on a device to find out knowledge. The question will be how they learn to discern useful knowledge and what is perhaps fact and opinion."

Morton recommends that parents weave in outdoor activity alongside limited electronic play.



71 per cent watched some TV, DVDs or videos on any given day.

75 per cent spent up to one hour on a computer/laptop, including children's systems such as Leapfrog, daily.

52 per cent listened to CDs, iPods and MP3 players.

72 per cent spent up to one hour playing electronic gaming devices. 

Waikato Times