Thursday, August 04, 2011

Children Glued to Screens

Parents should be aware of the rise of "multiple screen" viewing among children on devices including televisions, smartphones and portable games consoles, when monitoring whether they are being active enough, researchers say.

A sedentary lifestyle – linked to spending lots of time watching TV and playing computer games – is thought to increase the risk of obesity and mental health problems, researchers at Bristol and Loughborough universities said in a study published on Wednesday.

They questioned 63 10- and 11-year-olds and found that children enjoyed looking at more than one screen at a time.

Russ Jago, of Bristol University's centre for exercise, nutrition and health sciences, said: "Health campaigns recommend reducing the amount of time children spend watching TV.

"However, the children in this study often had access to at least five different devices at any one time, and many of these devices were portable."

In the study the children would move the equipment between their bedrooms and family rooms, depending on whether they wanted privacy or company, said Jago. "This suggests that we need to work with families to develop strategies to limit the overall time spent multiscreen viewing wherever it occurs within the home."

The children would use a second device to fill in breaks during their entertainment, often talking or texting their friends during adverts or while waiting for computer games to load. The television was also used to provide background entertainment while they were doing something else – especially if the programme chosen by their family was considered "boring".

One respondent said: "I'm on my DSi [handheld games console] and my laptop. On my DSi I'm on MSN and on my laptop I'm on Facebook and then the TV is on."

There has needs to be more research into multi-screen viewing.

Jago said: "There is a shortage of information about the nature of contemporary screen viewing amongst children, especially given the rapid advances in screen viewing equipment technology and their widespread availability.

"For example, TV programmes are watched on computers, games consoles can be used to surf the internet, smartphones, tablet computers and hand-held games play music, video games provide internet access, and laptop computers can do all of the above."

The research paper, entitled I'm on it 24/7 at the moment: A qualitative examination of multiscreen viewing behaviours among UK 10-11 year olds is published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.

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